US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday called for a reduction in military tensions and deployments across the Taiwan Strait.
Speaking just days before the arrival in Washington of Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤), Clinton gave notice that there would be no changes in US-Taiwan relations — despite signals from Beijing that it is strongly opposed to US weapons sales to Taipei.
“On Taiwan, we are encouraged by the greater dialogue and economic cooperation between the mainland and Taiwan — as witnessed by the historic completion of the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement [ECFA],” Clinton said.
“Our approach continues to be guided by our ‘one China’ policy based on the Three Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act,” she said.
“In the period ahead, we seek to encourage and see more dialogue and exchanges between the two sides, as well as reduced tensions and deployments,” she added.
Analysts said later that by “deployments” Clinton was referring to the 1,000-plus missiles that China has aimed at Taiwan.
There has been speculation in Washington that US President Barack Obama will raise the possibility of reducing the missile numbers when he meets with Hu for a White House summit meeting on Wednesday.
In an article published earlier in the week, the Washington Times said that the Obama administration would announce a US$4 billion arms package for Taiwan some time after the Hu visit, and that the package would include equipment to upgrade Taiwan’s 145 F-16 jet fighters with new electronics, engines and missiles.
The US has not confirmed the report.
Clinton’s brief but significant remarks about Taiwan came at the end of a long speech at the US Department of State, and was meant to set the scene for Hu’s visit.
“It is up to both nations to translate the high-level pledges of summits and state visits into action. Real action, on real issues,” Clinton said.
“America and China have arrived at a critical juncture, a time when the choices we make — big and small — will shape the trajectory of this relationship,” she said.
Clinton urged China to examine its policies on trade, climate change and North Korea and to further open its markets and let its currency appreciate faster. She promised that there would be no backing down on the strong US stand on human rights.
She said the US had watched China’s efforts to modernize and expand its military “and we have sought clarity as to its intentions.”
She said that both sides needed to build trust, understanding of intentions and familiarity.
Clinton left the strong impression that the US would be as friendly and as cooperative with China as it could, but that there would be no compromise on policies or principles.
That seems to echo the national mood as reflected in the media and amongst the intelligentsia.
As China expert Joseph Bosco wrote in the Christian Science Monitor on Friday: “China games the global economic system by labor exploitation, environmental degradation, currency manipulation, mercantilist trade practices, technology and intellectual property theft and cyber-sabotage.
“Obama cannot turn all this around in one meeting. But he can lay out a new framework for US-China relations, based on candor and resolve to protect US national interests and those of our friends and allies,” Bosco wrote.