Wed, Jan 26, 2011 - Page 1 News List

US kept Taiwan in mind during Hu trip: Burghardt

NEW GROUND:The American Institute in Taiwan head said that the US stuck by the Taiwan Relations Act when President Barack Obama held talks with China’s Hu Jintao

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

The US “kept Taiwan in mind” during US President Barack Obama’s recent meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and rejected any Chinese request that would have caused harm to Taiwan in negotiating the text of the two presidents’ Joint Statement, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt said yesterday.

Saying that China came into the negotiations on the joint statement with the intention of trying to “break new ground,” Burghardt said the US managed to make it a constructive statement “that in no way violate[d] any of Taiwan’s interests.”

Burghardt, who arrived in Taipei on Sunday to brief Taiwanese authorities on Hu’s state visit to the US last week, also held a roundtable meeting with members of the press.

China initially wanted the document to be called a “communique” and the phrase “[China’s] core interests” — present in the 2009 US-China Joint Statement when Obama visited Beijing — included in the text, but the US made it clear that “we prefer to have no joint statement rather than a statement which used the phrase ‘core interests.’”

The 2009 Joint Statement said both sides agreed to respect each other’s “core interests, but “the phrase ‘core interests’ had caused certain difficulties and misunderstandings,” Burghardt said, pointing to China’s territorial claims over the South China Sea.

Burghardt’s schedule included meetings with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), National Security Council Secretary-General Hu Wei-jen (胡為真) and Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), among others.

Burghardt said this year’s Joint Statement had led some people to raise questions over Washington’s stance on cross-strait political negotiations, primarily over the part that said: “[T]he US looks forward to efforts by both sides to increase dialogues and interactions in economic, political and other fields.”

That part of the statement, which also appeared in the 2009 Joint Statement, has raised concerns that it was not in line with one of the “six assurances” issued in 1982 that the US would not push Taiwan to enter political -negotiations with China.

Burghardt said the US position was that “we don’t play any role as mediators, [and] have no interests to be mediators between the two sides of the strait.”

“We take no position on the negotiations between the two parties. The subjects that they negotiate are completely up to the two sides to decide — and very specifically up to Taiwan to decide,” Burghardt said.

“We have no impatience about it [political talks]. When to talk about subjects that could be described as political subjects is completely something [for] President Ma, the government and people of Taiwan to decide,” Burghardt said.

The nature of political talks “does not necessarily refer to sovereignty” in terms of China’s claims of sovereignty over Taiwan, but could, as per Washington’s definition, refer to “Taiwan’s participation in international organizations.”

On Taiwan’s requests to purchase F-16C/D fighter jets from the US, Burghardt said “it is still an open question,” adding that Washington would make its decision based on “threats to Taiwan” and “discussions with the leadership in Taiwan.”

Burghardt declined to comment on the progress of the evaluations.

“We will see. We just don’t talk about it until we do it. That’s really the answer. We are in talks with Taiwan,” he said. “We look for the right time to do things.”

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