Praising the development of Taiwan’s democracy, former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage yesterday reassured Taiwan of the US’ security commitment.
“I would not question [US] commitment to Taiwan. Look at how strong the [US President Barack] Obama administration has been in the defense of democracy. Look at Egypt, look at Tunisia, even now in Libya, the Obama administration is talking about respecting the will of the people,” Armitage said.
The examples “should give -confidence to the people of -Taiwan,” he said when approached by reporters at the legislature for comment on what some people have seen as a cross-strait posture adopted by the Obama administration that is more favorable toward China than Taiwan.
During his tenure in former US president George W. Bush’s administration, Armitage had said on multiple occasions that the US was not obligated to defend Taiwan if the Chinese military attacked, as per the Taiwan Relations Act. In 2007, he clarified his position on the US’ commitment to Taiwan when he addressed a public event, saying that the decision to send troops in wartime was a political one.
Since his last visit to Taiwan in March 2006, Armitage said yesterday that he had seen “rapid changes” in Taiwan.
“The changes I have seen, first of all, from 2006 and now, the economic [situation] is much better. Second thing, I found the level of political discussion much higher. And third, it’s hard to believe that this democracy is only 20 years old … as it has come so far and so fast,” said Armitage, who is heading a delegation of security experts and academics on a visit to Taiwan.
During a separate meeting with Armitage yesterday, both President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and legislators urged the US to sell Taiwan advanced weapons, -including F-16C/Ds fighter jets and submarines.
“Taiwanese will feel secure and confident in continuing to engage with China on a variety of issues,” if the US approves the arms sale, Ma said.
“However, the Republic of China has no intention to engage in an arms race with the mainland,” he added. “We just hope we can maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait.”
Ma said that while some have questioned the speed of his cross-strait policy, they are moving “not too fast or too slowly.”
“A majority of Taiwanese think that the speed is just right,” Ma said, referring to the development of bilateral relations between Taiwan and China. “So we will not slow down nor speed up.”
Ma added he also hoped that -improvements would be made in Taiwan’s negotiations with the US on a visa-waiver program, an extradition agreement and on trade issues under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Yu-fang (林郁方) said during Armitage’s visit to the legislature that he could not understand why the US had been reluctant to approve the sale of F-16C/Ds and submarines given that Taiwan’s legislature had reached a consensus on the issue.
Armitage said that the US arms sale to Taiwan had many hurdles to clear in the past and that it has always been a complex issue, but he hoped that “our Taiwan friends don’t judge the US [commitment and support] by one issue.”
Armitage also met Mainland Affairs Council Minister Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) for a closed-door meeting. During the meeting, Lai was quoted by her aid as telling Armitage that the objective of the Ma administration’s cross-strait policy is clear: peace across the Taiwan Strait.