US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that following his substantive meetings in Beijing this week, which included talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), he did not anticipate any change in US policies toward Taiwan.
At a roundtable meeting with US reporters in Beijing, Gates said he was completing a “very positive visit” that had been “superior to any previous visit that I have had here in China.”
The three-day visit, which ended yesterday, was aimed at improving US-China military links in advance of Hu’s state visit to Washington next week.
In a transcript of a media roundtable provided by the Pentagon, Gates was asked if the US might change its policy on Taiwan in order to help the US-China relationship.
He replied: “I suppose that one of the virtues of age is that I was actually in the White House when normalization [of diplomatic relations with China] took place. So I know something about the details of this. And I have made clear when this subject has been raised that, first of all, we do have a ‘one China’ policy. We do consider the relationship to be based on the Three Joint Communiques [and] I always add — ‘and the Taiwan Relations Act,’” Gates said.
“Again, this is not policy. This is law. We do not support independence for Taiwan, but at the same time we have certain obligations under that law,” he said.
“Under [former US] president [George W.] Bush and [US] President [Barack] Obama, we have been certainly cognizant of Chinese sensitivities. And I believe that the decisions that have been made have focused on defensive capabilities,” Gates said.
“And certainly, over time, if the security environment changes, I also indicated to the Chinese that we would, we are not going to change our policy, but clearly over time if the environment changed and if the relationship between China and Taiwan continued to improve and the security -environment for Taiwan changed, then perhaps that would create the conditions for re-examining all of this,” he said.
“But that would be an evolutionary and a long-term process, it seems to me. I don’t think that’s anything that’s going to happen anytime soon,” he said.
Gates was pressed on how US policy could “evolve” and how the US could avoid military-to-military relations with China being damaged following the next arms sale to Taiwan.
“One of the comments that was made by the Chinese yesterday was that certainly the mechanisms that we have — the maritime consultative mechanism, the defense consultative talks and so on — would continue without interruption,” he said.
Gates expressed confidence that even following future Taiwan arms sales, the military-to-military relationship with China would continue to function.
Asked if he had received any indication that China was willing to cut the number of missiles it targets at Taiwan or take action to further improve the security situation, Gates said: “No, but I did reinforce our support for improving cross-strait relationships. We would very much like to see that continue.”
Pressing Gates on his comments on Taiwan policy “evolving,” reporters asked: “Is this a small shift in the US approach to the issue, at least in how you communicate the US stance?”
“No,” Gates said. “I don’t think so. I’m not trying to imply any change in US policy whatsoever.”