US President Barack Obama voiced hope on Wednesday for a further easing of tensions across the Taiwan Strait as he reaffirmed his commitment to the “one China” policy and to the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), a law passed by the US Congress in 1979 that requires the US to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.
Welcoming Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) for a state visit, Obama praised a major trade pact sealed last year between China and Taiwan.
“I welcome the progress that’s been made on both sides of the Taiwan Strait in reducing tensions and building economic ties,” Obama told a joint press conference. “We hope this progress continues, because it’s in the interests of both sides, the region and the United States. Indeed, I reaffirmed our commitment to a ‘one China’ policy based on the three US-China communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act.”
In a joint statement, Hu said that Taiwan “concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and hoped the US would “honor its relevant commitments and appreciate and support the Chinese side’s position on this issue.”
During the press conference, which was disrupted by technical and translation problems, Obama touched on some of the other topics dealt with during the White House talks.
He said that the yuan was undervalued, that the two countries were expanding and deepening dialogue and cooperation between their militaries, and added that the US had a fundamental interest in regional stability, maintaining freedom of navigation and unimpeded commerce.
The two leaders agreed that North Korea must avoid further provocations.
On the delicate issue of human rights, Obama seemed to deliberately avoid being over-critical.
Although he said he was “candid” on the subject, Obama seems to have ignored congressional wishes that he bring up specific cases of abuse, such as that of jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波).
Hu ignored a question from a US reporter on human rights, but when prodded with a follow-up, said: “China is always committed to the protection and promotion of human rights and, in the course of human rights, China has also made enormous progress, recognized widely in the world.”
However, he also acknowledged that “a lot still needs to be done.”
There is little doubt that Obama’s critics will be disappointed in the president’s failure to be more outspoken on the human rights issue.
Most of the closed-door White House talks appear to have been centered on trade, commerce and economics.
US officials said Beijing had agreed to buy 200 Boeing aircraft for US$19 billion as part of a US$45 billion export deal that is expected to create 200,000 new jobs in the US.
“We welcome China’s rise,” Obama said. “I absolutely believe that China’s peaceful rise is good for the world and it’s good for America. We just want to make sure that that rise occurs in a way that reinforces international norms and international rules, and enhances security and peace, as opposed to it being a source of conflict, either in the region or around the world.”
A lavish state dinner on Wednesday night was “quintessentially American” and included among the 225 guests stars such as Barbra Streisand, her husband James Brolin and action movie star Jackie Chan (成龍).
From big business there was Microsoft’s Steven Ballmer, from fashion there was Vera Wang and Vogue’s Anna Wintour. Artist Maya Lin, Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan and Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer also attended.
Michelle Obama wore what one of the TV networks described as a dramatic red, off-one-shoulder, floor-length gown designed by Alexander McQueen, the British designer who committed suicide last year.
The White House served d’anjou pear salad with goat cheese, poached Maine lobster, orange glazed carrots and black trumpet mushrooms, dry aged rib eye steak with buttermilk crisp onions, double-stuffed potatoes and creamed spinach. Dessert was apple pie and vanilla ice cream.
After-dinner entertainment was provided by an all-star jazz lineup.
Three top US congressional leaders — House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat; and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader — turned down their invitations as part of a thinly veiled snub to protest Hu’s human rights record.
Obama and Hu also held private Oval Office talks on Taiwan on Wednesday, but later refused to divulge details.
While Taipei and senior US officials are certain to have been given a full briefing, there were no leaks of the details in Washington on Wednesday night.
Analysts speculate that Obama may have told Hu that the US intends to continue selling arms to Taiwan and that Hu would have registered a strong objection, leaving both sides to simply agree to disagree.
At this early stage, there are no indications that a breakthrough — or progress of any kind — was made.
Hu was scheduled to make a public speech later yesterday before he traveled to Chicago and the end of his three-day state visit to the US.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP
ATTACK UNLIKELY: China would become ‘pariahs internationally for just the wanton destruction of Taiwan’ and would have little to gain from it, Trump’s security adviser said A top White House official on Friday urged Taiwan to build up its military capabilities to protect against a possible invasion by China, saying that Beijing would have that ability in 10 to 15 years. US President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told the Aspen Security Forum that a missile attack by China against Taiwan would be much too destructive. An amphibious attack is a possibility, although at the moment it is beyond China’s capability, he said. However, China could combine that threat with “gray zone” operations, embargoes, harassment and other actions to intimidate the nation if Taipei does not build
TAKES THE CAKE: Chinese diplomats tried to take photographs of people attending a National Day event in Suva, before reportedly assaulting a Taiwanese diplomat The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday condemned the Chinese embassy in Fiji over a fracas at its Double Ten National Day event at a Suva hotel, while a lawmaker demanded that the ministry file a lawsuit against Chinese embassy personnel for injuring a Taiwanese diplomat at the event. The Grubsheet news blog on Sunday and New Zealand-based Asia-Pacific Report Web site yesterday reported that two members of the Chinese embassy in Suva tried to force their way into a celebration held by the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji at the Grand Pacific Hotel on Oct. 8 to take photographs of
TAIPEI REACTIONS: Joanne Ou decried China’s ‘gangster diplomacy,’ while MOFA said its Fiji counterpart dealt fairly with the incident and protected the trade office’s rights The world should denounce the actions of Chinese embassy staffers in Fiji against a Taiwanese diplomat during a National Day celebration in Suva, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday as it thanked the Fijian government for its help after the Oct. 8 incident. Two Chinese diplomats tried to force their way into a celebration held by the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on Oct. 8, and a Taiwanese diplomat who tried to stop them taking photographs suffered a head injury. MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) told a news briefing that the ministry
TIT FOR TAT? Messages sent through channels have urged Washington to drop its prosecutions of Chinese researchers or see Americans put at risk Chinese officials warned their US counterparts as early as the summer that they might detain Americans in China if the US does not stop prosecuting Chinese academics linked to the Chinese military, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Saturday, citing people familiar with the matter. China sent repeated warnings through multiple channels, including the US embassy in Beijing, the report said. The message has been blunt: The US should drop prosecutions of the Chinese academics in US courts, or Americans in China might find themselves in violation of Chinese law, the newspaper cited sources as saying. The US has charged several