The US Department of State has issued a note of “clarification” that appears to contradict Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde’s (陳炳德) version of what he was told by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton about US policy toward Taiwan.
At a Washington press conference on Wednesday, Chen said: “During my office call on Secretary Clinton this morning, she told me — she reiterated the US policy; that is, there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China.”
His remarks alarmed Taiwanese-American groups, who called the US Department of State on Thursday asking for an explanation.
They particularly wanted to know if US policy toward Taiwan had changed.
Late on Thursday night, a US official said: “The United States has maintained a consistent policy across eight administrations; our ‘one China’ policy, based on the three US-China Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act, has not changed. The secretary reiterated this policy yesterday in her meeting with General Chen.”
“The United States welcomes the recent improvement in cross-strait relations, opposes any unilateral actions by either side to alter the status quo, and believes that cross-strait issues should be resolved peacefully in a manner acceptable to the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait,” the official added.
“In her meeting with Chen, the secretary also reviewed the results of last week’s S&ED [Strategic and Economic Dialogue] and noted the importance of having senior PLA representatives participate in the S&ED for the first time. The secretary emphasized the importance of developing more sustained and substantive military-to-military engagement that increases transparency and familiarity,” the official said. “The secretary and General Chen also emphasized the importance of people-to-people ties in building a positive, cooperative, comprehensive relationship between the United States and China.”
While the “clarification” seemed to go out of its way not to upset Chen, it also made clear — without directly saying it — that Clinton did not tell him that there was only “one China” in the world and that Taiwan was part of China.
Nor was Chen’s misrepresentation of Clinton’s remarks the only upset at the press conference that was held as part of the Chinese general’s week-long visit to the US.
The conference was held jointly with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, and in response to a question about the possible sale of advanced F-16C/D fighter jets to Taiwan, Mullen also appeared to misrepresent US policy.
He said: “As General Chen said, Secretary Clinton repeated and I would only re-emphasize the United States policy supports a ‘one China’ policy. And I certainly share the view of the peaceful reunification of China.”
Later, Captain John Kirby, a spokesman for Mullen, explained: “The chairman fully supports the United States’ ‘one China’ policy, which is based on the three US-China Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act. This policy has been consistent across eight administrations. The United States supports a peaceful resolution acceptable to the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. It is this peaceful resolution to which the chairman was referring.”
When asked what its take on the matter was, the Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) said that the “misquotes and misinterpretations” by Chen and Mullen showed how confusing the US “one China” policy could be.