US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley warned China and Taiwan to “respect the status quo” and avoid any unilateral actions that could affect the other side.
Answering questions following a major farewell speech in Washington on Wednesday, Hadley addressed the China-Taiwan issue in more extensive terms than he has done before in public.
He said the framework of US President George W. Bush’s policies with respect to China and Taiwan had been based on keeping the “status quo” in place while “at the same time making very clear to China that we would carry out our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act to make sure that Taiwan had the capacity to provide for its own defense.”
“Bush has tried to have a course that basically respects the ‘one China’ policy ... and the three communiques, which are the bulwark of our policy with respect to China, but also to make very clear that both sides, China and Taiwan, need to respect the status quo and there needs to be no unilateral actions by either side,” he said.
“The President stood very firm with respect to those principles ... And I think that helped get through a difficult patch in the relations between China and Taiwan, and [has] helped encourage what is really a very hopeful turn in relations between China and Taiwan,” Hadley said.
As chief White House adviser on security issues, Hadley appeared to be going out of his way to stress — in a way that he has not done before — that under Bush the US was ready to make sure that Taiwan was able to defend itself in the case of an attack by China.
It is significant because much of the speech, which dealt with hotspots around the world, was directed at the incoming administration of president-elect Barack Obama.
“When President Bush approached Asia, he approached it not by starting first with our relations with China, but starting first with our relations with our traditional allies. A central feature of his Asia policy was to strengthen those alliances and to try and deal with a pretty long list of unresolved issues and irritants in those relationships,” Hadley said.
“So I think it is also very important for the new administration to think in the same way about how they are going to approach the issue of Asia more generally and to see our relations with China in that broader context,” he said.
“We have built a stronger relationship with China based on cooperation where we agree and candor where we disagree. Tensions over Taiwan have eased considerably. And we continue to press China on human rights and religious freedom,” Hadley said.
“The Asia-Pacific is a region of increasing importance to America’s security and economic well-being. President Bush has strengthened the institutional relationships that will allow the new president the better to advance our interests there,” he said.
Asked about studies by the think tank Freedom House that show free societies around the world are in retreat, Hadley said: “The advance of freedom is hard work and a long-term project. And I think it’s had its ups and downs. It may have declined over the last three years.”