President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said he hoped to see some concrete results in security cooperation with the US, including the procurement of F-16C/D fighter jets.
Ma said he was grateful that Washington has maintained its commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act and approved two arms packages totaling US$13 billion to help Taiwan enhance its defense capability.
He said he hoped Washington would consider selling the F-16s so Taiwan could phase out the obsolete F5 series, and he hoped security cooperation could be strengthened through the signing of an extradition agreement and Taiwan's admission to the US’ visa waiver program.
While there are some difficulties involved in these issues, Ma said he hoped the two nations’ long friendship would help them overcome the obstacles so there could be concrete results in the near future.
Ma made the remarks while meeting US Representative Madeleine Bordallo, who represents Guam, at the Presidential Office.
His remarks came on the heels of the comments by US Senator Arlen Specter after his meeting with Ma last month that he did not support Taiwan's request to buy advanced F-16C/D fighters.
In other developments, Dean Cheng (成斌), a research fellow with the Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center, said yesterday that the US should continue its arms sales to Taiwan in light of the increasing military imbalance in the Taiwan Strait. However, not much was likely to be done in terms of free-trade agreement talks or arms sales because mid-term elections are approaching in the US, he said during a video conference organized by the American Cultural Center to discuss cross-strait developments.
Cheng said he was concerned that there has been so little discussion on how Taiwan's military capabilities line up against China's.
Responding to a question from the audience, he said that the US “never left Asia” but it was now refocusing on the region.
The US commitment has been seen as a stabilizing force in the Asia-Pacific region, so that any reduction of US commitment would be probably viewed as “destabilizing.”
Bonnie Glaser, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, also took part in the videoconference.
She said the joint cross-strait air-sea rescue exercise that took place in the waters between Kinmen County and the Chinese port city of Xiamen last week would lay the groundwork for cross-strait military confidence-building measures.
“[The drill] is an important step forwards. It did not involve the military, but it does pave the way for future military confidence-building measures,” she said.
“It's very clear that the [US President Barack] Obama administration welcomes the easing of tensions of cross strait [sic], and encourage further cooperation between Taipei and Beijing, the expansion of trade and economy and cultural ties between the two sides of the Strait is very much in the interests of the US,” she said.
“Contrary to some media reports, the US does not have reservations about the development so far in cross-strait relations and does not oppose them,” she said.
Establishment of cross-strait confidence-building measures, which would include communication and information-sharing mechanisms, would reduce potential accidents resulting from miscalculations and enable both sides of the Strait to defuse crises and prevent escalation in the event that an accident were to occur, she said.
“Reduction of China’s military deployment” obviously targeted at Taiwan is needed for cross-strait relations to move forward, she said.
There is clearly “a stark contrast” between the easing political tensions and expanding economic cooperation on the one hand and the continuous military deployment and threatening military exercises that China continues to conduct against Taiwan, Glaser said.
“It is overdue for the mainland to make some serious gestures to Taiwan to begin to reduce those military deployments. Hopefully sometime in the future we will see some efforts in that regards, but up till now we have seen very little,” she said.
Glaser also said that Taiwan and the US were likely to resume talks in the next few months on their Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) after a hiatus of three years.
“It's likely that in the next few months we will see the resumption of the negotiations on the TIFA process,” she said.
The TIFA framework has provided an official channel for dialogue on trade and economic issues since it was signed in September 1994. However, the last TIFA talks were in 2007.
The TIFA process, as well as an extradition agreement and Taiwan's inclusion in the US visa-waiver program, was on a “rich agenda” for both sides to work on, in addition to military and security issues, Glaser said.
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