The US heaped praised on President Chen Shui-bian's(
The US Department of State, responding Wednesday to Chen's statement he made at the conclusion of a national security meeting, described Chen's peace initiative as "positive and constructive."
The department also reiterated Washington's commitment to the so-called "Six Assurances," which former president Ronald Reagan formulated in response to the August 1982 "Third Communique" between Washington and Beijing, in which Reagan pledged the US would reduce arms sales to Taiwan.
The department's response came amid some concerns in Washington that the Bush administration was rethinking the Six Assurances with an eye on weakening the US commitment to them, as part of the price for enhanced cooperation with China on a number of international issues, including Iraq and the war on terror.
"There is no change in US policy, including regarding the six assurances," the State Department said in a formal answer to a question raised during department spokesman Richard Boucher's daily press briefing.
The Six Assurances are that the US will not: set a date for termination of arms sales to Taiwan; alter the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act; consult with China in advance before making decisions about US arms sales to Taiwan; mediate between Taiwan and China; alter its position about the sovereignty of Taiwan, which was that the question was one to be decided peacefully by the Chinese themselves, or pressure Taiwan to enter into negotiations with China; or formally recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan.
Regarding Chen's idea of setting up a buffer zone in the Taiwan Strait and re-engaging in dialogue on the basis of the 1992 Hong Kong formula, the State Department had this to say:
"We welcome the positive and constructive points in Chen Shui-bian's speech. We believe it lays the foundation for progress and offers some creative ideas for reducing tensions and resuming the cross-strait dialogue. We wish both sides take this opportunity to engage in dialogue in order to resolve their differences peacefully."
Overall, the department said that Washington's policy toward Taiwan "remains the same."
Chen's statement, and the US response, comes on the heels of two reported telephone conversations between President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao (
It also comes as Bush and Hu are preparing to hold their first face-to-face meeting since the US election, when the two attend the meeting of the APEC forum in Santiago, Chile later this month.
Taiwan was a major topic of conversation during the post-election phone conversations, both the White House and official Chinese mouthpieces have said.
Beijing has also indicated that Taiwan will be a key topic during the Chile APEC summit.
China's media has expressed confidence that Bush will take an even closer stance toward China during his second term than he did over the past year, when he courted China's aid in the war on terror, advancing dialogue with North Korea and in the US-led war in Iraq.
The White House has rebuffed such suggestions.