Neither the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was able to confirm that US President Barack Obama recently expressed the US’ stance on Taiwanese independence to Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), but President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that Obama has mentioned to Xi that the US does not support the nation’s independence.
Ma told the Nikkei Asian Review in an interview on Thursday that: “President Barack Obama also mentioned during the summit that the US is happy to see relations between the two sides across the Taiwan Strait improve, whilst it does not support Taiwan’s independence,” according to the English excerpts provided by the Nikkei and a Chinese version published on the Presidential Office Web site.
Ma made the remarks in response to the Nikkei asking what he took from the just-concluded APEC summit, at which Obama and Xi held a bilateral meeting on Wednesday after a dinner on Tuesday night which lasted two hours.
It was not clear what Ma based his statement on, but the reported remarks by Obama were originally picked up by China’s Xinhua news agency on Wednesday, which was then cited in a report run by the Central News Agency (CNA) the same day.
The Xinhua English-language report said: “President Barack Obama reiterated on Wednesday that the United States does not support ‘independence’ of Taiwan and Tibet.”
It said Obama made the remarks when he met with Xi.
The part about the US’ stance on Tibet was attested to by the transcript of the joint news conference following the Obama-Xi meeting, available on the White House Web site, and included Obama saying: “I did note that we recognize Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China. We are not in favor of independence.”
However, Obama saying that the US does not support Taiwanese independence was nowhere to be found in the transcript.
According to the transcript, Obama mentioned Taiwan only when he said: “I reaffirmed my strong commitment to our one-China policy based on the Three Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act. And we encourage further progress by both sides of the Taiwan Strait towards building ties, reducing tensions and promoting stability on the basis of dignity and respect.”
When asked by the Taipei Times yesterday, the AIT was unable to confirm if Obama actually told Xi that the US does not support Taiwanese independence.
AIT spokesperson Mark Zimmer said the mention of Taiwan in the transcript was Obama’s only comment on Taiwan that he was aware of.
As of press time, the ministry had not responded to the Taipei Times’ requests as to whether it had clarified with the US regarding Obama’s quote in the Xinhua report.
According to sources in diplomatic circles, Obama has never told China on the record that the US does not support Taiwanese independence, despite the position being part of the US’ Taiwan policy.
Although the US’ policy is to not support the nation’s independence, it would be something else for a US president to voice it, the sources said.
“Had Obama said that, it would mean that Beijing had pressed [Obama to do so] and got its desired result,” the sources said.
Richard Bush, former AIT chairman and director of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at the Washington-based Brookings think tank, held a different view.
It is a matter of no consequence whether Obama told Xi that the US does not support Taiwanese independence, because it is the US’ long-held policy, Bush said.