The US is not being fully informed and briefed by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration about Taipei’s direct negotiations with Beijing.
This surprising situation was revealed on Wednesday by Bonnie Glaser, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
In an address to a conference at The George Washington University on “US-Taiwan Political Relations,” Glaser said that although US-Taiwan communications had been relatively smooth: “US officials have not always felt that they have been fully informed about the depth and breadth of Taiwan’s consultations and negotiations with the mainland.”
Several of those at the conference said later that it was the first time they had heard such a complaint and that the Ma administration had gone out of its way to paint the relationship with Washington as particularly rosy.
Glaser said Ma’s initial objective for US-Taiwan relations was not very ambitious.
Ma wanted to restore trust and promised “there would be no surprises and that he would keep the United States informed about Taiwan’s policy,” she said.
“The goal of restoring trust was achieved relatively quickly, but that is not to imply that there have been no problems,” she said.
Glaser said when Taiwan discussed its bid to become an observer at the World Health Assembly, the details were not shared with the US and this was also true of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) negotiations.
“In both of these instances, the United States was fully supportive of the goal and the outcome that was achieved and it was not mistrustful of the government in Taipei,” she said.
Asked to expand on the comments she made in her speech, Glaser said: “It is my understanding that officials of the [US President Barack] Obama administration are not worried about what is taking place in conversations or exchanges between Taiwan and the mainland.”
“It is not an issue of being mistrustful of Taiwan,” she said.
“My understanding is that they [the Obama administration] just like to be more informed. Part of this may be oversight, there really is so much going on between Taiwan and the mainland [China],” she said.
“Obviously, Taiwan’s government is keeping track of all this, but sometimes there is compartmentalization or lack of coordination and I think the United States would like to know more about what is going on, on a range of issues,” Glaser said.
“I really want to underscore, I don’t think it has anything to do with mistrust. It is a desire to be well informed and early on. It was pretty late in the game before the United States was fully briefed on ECFA,” she said.
Glaser said in her speech that during the administration of former US president George W. Bush, there had been concern that the growing importance of China would make the US less willing to sell arms to Taiwan and more willing to sacrifice Taiwan’s interest to obtain China’s help, for example, in restraining North Korea.
“Both the Bush, and subsequently the Obama, administration approved large packages of weapons to Taiwan even though they knew that Beijing would suspend the US-China military relationship and take other punitive actions,” she said.
“No decision has yet been made on some of Taiwan’s requests — for example the F-16C/Ds and the request for submarines is still on the table. Undoubtedly, China’s possible response will factor into those decisions and into others. The China factor is apparent in policy deliberations concerning Taiwan and it will likely grow in importance in the future,” she said.