US Senator Max Baucus, US President Barack Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to China, said on Tuesday that he would “encourage China to reduce military deployments aimed at Taiwan.”
The six-term Democrat from Montana told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he would “make clear” to the Chinese leadership that the US welcomes continued progress in cross-strait relations and is looking for Beijing to “pursue a peaceful resolution to cross-strait issues.”
At a hearing called to review his nomination, Baucus indicated that he would take a hard line on commercial and security disputes, saying that he would tell the Chinese leadership: “Uh-uh, we won’t be taken advantage of.”
The 72-year-old Baucus is expected to be quickly confirmed.
“I will urge China’s leaders to protect the universal human rights and the freedoms of all its citizens, including ethnic and religious minorities,” he said. “I’ll call on Chinese authorities to reduce tensions in Tibet and Xinjiang, and restart substantive talks with the Dalai Lama or his representatives without preconditions.”
He said it was imperative for the US to be deeply involved in the Asia-Pacific region, but that Washington should be “very wary” of Chinese references to “core interests.”
China’s focus on these “core interests” — such as Taiwan and the South China Sea — suggested that Beijing wanted to take care of its part of the world without US participation, he said.
“That is not an approach that makes sense to me,” he said.
Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez said he appreciated Baucus’ remarks that he would stand up “for our principles” on issues such as Taiwan, human rights and Tibet.
Senator Marco Rubio said there were some real challenges ahead as China tried to persuade the US to “erode or abandon” regional commitments to Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines.
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus led the push to enact free-trade agreements with 11 countries, including Singapore and South Korea.
He said that he would have two “overarching goals” as ambassador.
The first would be to develop the economic relationship in a way that benefited US businesses and workers.
The second would be to partner with China as it emerges as a global power and to encourage it to act responsibly in resolving international disputes, respecting human rights and protecting the environment, he said.
“As China emerges on the global stage, it has the responsibility to contribute more to preserving the regional and global security that has enabled its rise,” he said.
“Countries in the Asia-Pacific [region] have expressed concerns about China’s pursuit of its territorial claims and maritime disputes,” Baucus said.
“I will urge China to follow international law on maritime issues and other international standards, and stress that all sides must work together to manage and resolve sovereignty disputes without coercion or use of force,” he said.