Sat, Sep 17, 2011 - Page 1 News List

US official worried about Tsai: report

‘BLINDSIDED’:The DPP said that the comments by an anonymous US official quoted by the ‘Financial Times’ amounted to US interference in the presidential election

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

“They subvert every assurance we were given over the past few days that the United States government would remain ‘neutral’ regarding Taiwan’s election,” she said.

In a second story, published later on its Web site, the Financial Times said that Taiwan’s elections had always “had their fair share of drama.”

“In a very unusual move that underscores the stakes, the Obama administration has intervened in the campaign,” the paper said.

The administration had done so, the Financial Times said, when the senior official talked with the newspaper and expressed doubts about Tsai’s willingness and ability to continue the stability in cross-strait relations.

“Washington, which acts as a guarantor of Taiwan’s de facto independence with a legally binding pledge to help the island defend itself, has intervened in elections before, when DPP candidates campaigned on independence--related issues,” the newspaper said. “However, it has rarely commented on individual candidates.”

In private conversations, US academics and even some members of Congress expressed “amazement” at the “brazenness” of the administration’s attack on Tsai. Some felt that it reflected pressure from China to keep Ma in power.

Daniel Blumenthal, a resident fellow and China expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said: “The Obama administration does no favors to either the KMT or DPP by being solicitous of China’s view of the Taiwan elections.

“It is a breach of diplomatic practice and is revealing about what our Taiwan policy is: not to offend China,” he said. “That policy has not served Taiwan or the United States over the last few years, nor will it in the future. Our policy should be to stay out of Taiwan’s democratic elections and have a Taiwan policy that is not based on a Chinese veto.”

“I believe Dr Tsai’s trip has gone well,” US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert -Hammond-Chambers said. “She has had an opportunity to frame policies her administration would pursue should she be elected next January. They appear reasonable and well thought-out.”

“The Financial Times story is cause for significant concern. The Obama administration should remain neutral in the Taiwan elections,” he said.

Earlier this month, former American Institute in Taiwan director Douglas Paal said in an article published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he is vice president for studies, that the Chinese had privately expressed hope for intervention by the Obama administration to “tilt the political playing field in favor of the Ma Ying-jeou government and against Tsai’s DPP.”

“Once again, the tide has turned and Beijing is looking to Washington for help to manage what it ordinarily insists are its internal affairs with Taiwan,” Paal said in the article.

This would seem to be exactly what has happened, but Paal does not seem to think so.

“I would not accept the term election ‘interference,’” he told the Taipei Times.

“Dr Tsai came to the US presumably, among other things, to demonstrate that she can work with Washington and to advance her campaign for the presidency. She brought the issue to Washington, not vice versa,” he said. “The Obama administration, as everyone before it, expressed no preference for the outcome of the election, believing this would be wrong in principle and perhaps counterproductive in practice. She was received correctly and with dignity.”

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