US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday that the US hasn't always received a "satisfactory" response from Taiwan with regard to US efforts to help modernize the Taiwanese military.
Rice made the remarks while attending a hearing of the House International Relations Committee on the fiscal year 2007 international affairs budget request. She said the US has also been clear that it has obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) to help Taiwan defend itself.
Rice said the US has "proposed that there are things that could be done for the modernization of Taiwanese forces with the help of the United States."
However, the US hasn't always received "a particularly satisfactory response on the Taiwanese side to issues about defense modernization, but we have been prepared to discharge our duties in that regard."
Ohio Representative Steve Chabot, co-chairman of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, a pro-Taiwan group in the House of Representatives, asked Rice during the hearing about cross-strait relations and the US role in the Taiwan Strait.
Rice said that although the US has insisted on its "one China" policy, it has also tried to give Taiwan space within the international community.
Chabot admitted that he is "not a big fan" of the so-called "one China" policy, saying he believes it is "wrongheaded" and "dangerous."
During the hearing, Chabot cited a Taipei Times cartoon to make his point.
The cartoon, published by this paper on Feb 4, shows a man labeled "Taiwan," who is trying to crawl out of the water to get away from a shark that is labeled "China." From the shore, a bat-wielding Uncle Sam is saying to Taiwan "Get back in there! We don't want to alter the status quo."
"I use this cartoon as an illustration of the frustration I'm sure Taiwan's leaders must be feeling, and frankly, the frustration I am feeling," Chabot was quoted as saying in the hearing's transcript.
Chabot said that "every time Taiwan's democratically elected President Chen Shui bian (
He said the main threat to the "status quo" in the Taiwan Strait is actually China, which is pursuing a rapid military buildup, has 784 missiles pointed at Taiwan and last year passed the "Anti-Secession" Law giving it legal cover to attack Taiwan.
In response, Rice said that the US has pursued "a policy that does recognize that there is one China," but that it has tried also to make space for Taiwan in international organizations and international groupings.
For instance, she said the US advocates having Taiwan in the World Health Organization and has insisted that Taiwan continue to be involved in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
"I think we have tried to give Taiwan space to be active in international politics," Rice noted.
Rice said that she understands that Chabot disagrees with the policy, but that the US has "carried out the policy in a way consistent with its interests" and "consistent with our values in trying to support Taiwan's democracy to give it room and space within the international community, to give it a way to engage the international community, and to do that within the context of this policy."
On cross-strait relations, she said that "the best course is to have a situation in which neither side tries to change the status quo unilaterally. We also believe that the Chinese should not provoke Taiwan, and we've been very clear to them on the same count."