Thu, Feb 17, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Zoellick condemns anti-secession law

ROCKING THE BOAT The man who has been selected to become the US' No. 2 diplomat said that the proposed Chinese bill was a move in the wrong direction


The man tapped to be the new US deputy secretary of state, Robert Zoellick has slammed China's planned anti-secession law, saying that it move in the "other direction" of US goals for a peaceful settlement of cross-strait issues.

Zoellick made his comment in response to a question by a senator during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee evaluating his nomination by President George W. Bush to be the next No. 2 official at the State Department.

It was the strongest statement in opposition to the anti-secession law that any senior US official has made since Beijing announced plans to enact the law last December.

Other US officials, while expressing various degrees of dissatisfaction with the planned law, have refused to expressly oppose it, saying they had not yet seen the text of the law and thus could not comment officially.

Zoellick's remarks are believed to be the first by any senior US official to condemn the planned law in certain terms.

"Our goal is for the parties to work out [cross-strait relations] peacefully, in an acceptable way to people on both sides of the Strait," Zoellick said in response to a question by Senator Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican.

"And in that sense, we encourage a dialogue and we certainly discourage actions [which] move in the other direction, with the anti-secession law," he said.

Zoellick, who is now the US trade representative, also praised the recent agreement between Taipei and Beijing on Lunar New Year's cross-strait flights.

"There have been some steps between China and Taiwan recently in terms of transportation links and others that I hope will move in a positive direction," he said.

He added that Washington remains committed to a "one China" policy and the three joint US-China communiques, "and the president is committed to the terms of the Taiwan Relations Act."

Asked about Zoellick's statements, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the anti-secession law did not come up when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) over the weekend.

However, Boucher said, Washington "has been quite clear that we don't think either side should take unilateral steps that try to define the situation further or push it in one direction or another."

He added that since the law was first discussed by Beijing, both former secretary of state Colin Powell and the US embassy in Beijing had raised the issue.

"The Chinese know quite clearly what our views are," he said.

While Zoellick is expected to win easy confirmation by the Senate as the next deputy secretary of state to replace Richard Armitage, who has retired, the fate of other positions of interest to East Asia is still up in the air.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific James Kelly retired at the end of last month and no replacement has been named.

Chris Hill, the ambassador to South Korea, was widely expected to replace Kelly, but Boucher on Monday announced only that Hill would sit in for Kelly as the head of the US delegation to the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons development.

Hill will also continue in the South Korea post, the spokesman said.

Kelly's temporary replacement is Evans Revere, who had been Kelly's principle deputy.

Other senior State Department officials, including John Bolton, the under-secretary for arms control and international security, and one of Taiwan's most prominent supporters in the administration, remains in his post despite rumors that he would quit to join the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney.

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