Mon, Apr 13, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan Strait needs farsighted leaders, former US ambassador to China says

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

A former US ambassador to China said yesterday in Taipei that one of the looming problems in the Taiwan Strait is security and that it would require strong and farsighted leaders on both sides to benefit, not beggar, their neighbor.

“One can hope that increasing economic ties, bilateral dialogue and general momentum will lead to progress,” said Winston Lord, who served as US ambassador to China from 1985 to 1989 and was assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs between 1993 and 1997. “So far the picture is not encouraging.”

Lord made the remarks in a keynote speech during the morning session of the “International Conference on 30 years of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) — Retrospect and Prospects.”

Referring to a recently released Pentagon report, Lord said China continues to build up its missile force and its general military capabilities. Fleeting references to confidence-building measures have not yielded concrete steps, he said.

Looking ahead, Lord said that although the global economic crisis has clouded the immediate vision, it is in the interests of all to benefit, not beggar, their neighbors.

“This will require strong, farsighted leaders,” he said. “It will test the fiber of the people. Patriotism must supplant partisanship.”

Lord said it was necessary to craft security assurances and that the TRA has helped to safeguard the “inspiring journey of Taiwan in the jaws of powerful headwinds,” but that was hardly sufficient.

While Taiwan’s security has been safeguarded, China’s military buildup continues unabated, he said, adding that Taiwan must pull its weight in its own defense and further strengthen its democracy.

Good relations with Beijing need not harm Taiwan’s fortunes, he said. A crucial factor for recent and future progress is steady consultation and mutual trust between Taipei and Washington.

Lord said Washington should not mediate between Taipei and Beijing in any fashion, even in the highly unlikely event that the two sides sought to cast the US in that role.

“As always, the future relationship between Taiwan and the PRC [People’s Republic of China] should be resolved between them directly, peacefully and with the support of the people,” he said.

One of the immediate issues is Taiwan’s international space, on which Lord said he would like to see Beijing move from halting, limited steps to a posture consistent with Taiwan’s dignity and stature.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said he hoped to see the TRA continue to strengthen and through cooperation between Washington, Beijing and Taipei, he believed it would create a win-win-win situation.

“The TRA has served to anchor peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait for the past three decades,” Ma said in English at the opening ceremony of the conference. “Its very existence changed the evolutionary course of cross-strait development by stabilizing the trilateral relationship among Taiwan, the US and mainland China.”

Describing the TRA as the “second best choice” in an imperfect world, Ma said it has served to accommodate Taiwan’s needs by keeping all aspects of US-Taiwan relations intact, despite Washington’s switching of diplomatic recognition from the Republic of China to the People’s Republic of China in 1979.

The TRA also created a resilient triangular framework for relations between the US, Taiwan and China, he said.

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