Fri, Feb 04, 2011 - Page 1 News List

US diplomat noncommittal on arms ‘breakthrough’

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in Washington

A senior US diplomat was noncommittal on the possibility of an arms sales “breakthrough” between Washington and Taipei this year.

Asked about the possible sale of F-16C/D fighter aircraft long sought by Taiwan, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell deflected the question by focusing on the nature of the US-Taiwan relationship.

“We think we have a strong unofficial relationship with Taiwan,” he said. “We have a number of interactions with them, and those will continue in 2011 and beyond.”

“It is the position of the US government not to comment about the security situation in terms of arms sales vis-a-vis Taiwan. This is a longstanding American position. I stand by it,” Campbell said in a briefing for members of the foreign media in Washington.

Campbell was pressed about recent US statements supporting more “engagement” between Taiwan and China and asked if Washington wanted to see political issues advanced. He said the US had been “very clear” about welcoming contact across the Taiwan Strait.

“We believe that those contacts are the business of the people of China and Taiwan, to discuss among themselves, to take the appropriate steps at the appropriate timing,” he said.

The US welcomed the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement and the “burgeoning of economic ties between the two countries,” Campbell said.

“We think that’s an important step in improving confidence. And we know that there are ongoing dialogues across a range of issues, culturally and the like,” he said.

“I think I would just simply say that the United States supports these and anything that will build trust and confidence to a greater degree. We think that is in the best interest not only of the United States but all the peoples involved,” he said.

American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Ray Burghardt said recently that China had proposed that a “fourth communique” be issued during President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) state visit to the US last month, but the US rejected the idea.

“I’m not going to elaborate on what Mr Burghardt said in Taiwan. I would simply say that the document that was issued from the US and China was a statement. And we thought that the language on the Taiwan Straits [sic] was very clear and very positive. And we welcomed the positive developments across the Taiwan Straits [sic],” Campbell said.

“We also very clearly recognized our responsibilities before the visit of President Hu. Secretary [of State Hillary Rodham ] Clinton reaffirmed our commitment not only to the three communiques but [also to] the Taiwan Relations Act,” Campbell said. “And President [Barack] Obama in his public statements during the visit of President Hu also underscored our unique responsibilities under the Taiwan Relations Act.”

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