Sun, Mar 22, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Taipei must reset diplomacy: ex-official

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in Washington

Representative to the US Shen Lyu-shun poses near the Republic of China flag at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office at Twin Oaks Estate in Washington on Jan. 2.

Photo: CNA

Taiwan needs to “reset” its representation with the US, a former Congressional official said on Friday.

The move could ensure that the opportunity to strengthen bilateral ties is not lost this year, recently retired US Congressional Research Service specialist in Asian security affairs Shirley Kan said.

She called on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the Legislative Yuan to lift the morale of Taiwan’s diplomatic service and “rejuvenate the ranks with younger officials.”

At a conference on US-Taiwan relations at the Heritage Foundation in Washington’s Kan said that the US’ trust in Taiwan had been hurt by a flag-raising ceremony at the Twin Oaks Estate in January.

There is an understanding between Taiwan and the US that for diplomatic reasons the Republic of China flag is not flown at Twin Oaks in Washington.

Without consulting officials in Taipei or Washington, Representative to the US Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) raised the flag during a ceremony in January, upsetting Beijing and causing a diplomatic storm that continues to make waves.

It has been reported that senior US officials have requested that Taipei replace the representative.

Kan said that she was “concerned” about US policy toward Taiwan, adding that last month, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Danny Russel said progress in cross-strait relations had strengthened the US-Taiwan relationship.

“I disagree,” Kan said.

She said that US engagement with Taiwan was based on the belief that strong US ties would give Taipei “confidence and strength” to engage with Beijing.

“There has been critical bipartisan support in Congress for Taiwan’s democracy, defense and participation in international organizations,” she said.

Kan said she told Washington not to interfere in Taiwan’s presidential and legislative elections next year, adding that last month, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said that Taiwan was not talked about as much as it once was and that this was a good sign.

Kan said that the Taiwan Relations Act was the most important factor and that Taiwan continued to be “talked about a lot.”

“Taiwan is a beacon of democracy, including as a model for China,” Kan said. “There have been a number of important elements — substantive strengthening of ties to Taiwan — not just a relationship for the sake of a relationship.”

She said that the state visit to Washington later this year by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) would “suck the oxygen from the room” and make it more difficult for Taiwan’s voice to be heard.

Kan said Taiwan must focus on military reforms and spend more on national defense.

Taipei should send top officials, including Minister of National Defense Kao Kuang-chi (高廣圻), to the US and elsewhere, she said.

“The ball is in Taiwan’s court,” Kan said.

She said that Ma’s East China Sea peace initiative must be followed with a South China Sea initiative, and that Taiwan should clarify its understanding of the “nine-dash line.”

Kan said that top officials from US President Barack Obama’s administration might make more opportunities to talk to Ma, “perhaps during visits to the US called transits or at international events.”

She also said the Obama administration needed to give a straight “yes or no” answer to Taiwan’s request for aid with its proposed submarine program.

“This is way overdue,” Kan said.

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