US-Taiwan Business Council chairman Paul Wolfowitz told a gathering of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei yesterday that he believed the administration of US President George W. Bush would recommence arms sales to Taiwan before Bush leaves office in January.
Wolfowitz, a close ally of Bush who served as US deputy secretary of defense from 2001 to 2005 and played a key role in the US invasion of Iraq, said he was confident the arms freeze would be lifted, as the US president had made a commitment in April 2001, and that Bush is “strong on commitments” and “treats commitments as commitments.”
“I believe that the packages will go forward and the US will keep its word,” he said.
Wolfowitz’s comments come against the backdrop of a halt in the processing of weapons sales to Taiwan this year ahead of Bush’s trip to the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing on Aug. 8 and mixed messages from Washington about whether the freeze is official.
Commander of US forces in the Pacific Admiral Timothy Keating told the Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington last Wednesday that the freeze was “administration policy,” while just two days later a State Department official refused to say there was such a policy.
Stressing that he was speaking as a “private citizen” throughout his 45-minute speech, the former World Bank president later questioned Keating’s authoritativeness on the subject, saying he was not a government spokesman.
Commenting on recent cross-strait developments, Wolfowitz said that President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) three noes policy — no unification, no independence and no use of force — had made a big contribution to peace in the region and put things on the right path.
He said the reduction in tension and increased contact across the Strait would make it easier for Washington to have good relations with both Taiwan and China.
To improve perceptions of Taiwan in the US, Wolfowitz said it was important not to “focus on the past” and that Taiwan should try to increase visits by opinion makers such as academics and politicians.
People of influence with first-hand understanding of Taiwan would help the nation in its quest for increased international space, he said.
Praising Taiwan’s successful transition from dictatorship to democracy, Wolfowitz said that although he was a long-time friend of former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀), he disagreed with the theory that Asian people do not mind being told what to do by government.
He added that he had been heartened to hear that Chinese people had been “glued to their televisions” waiting for the results of Taiwan’s presidential election in March.
In the long term, he said, he was confident that Taiwan would have a bigger influence on China than vice versa.
The US-Taiwan Business Council is a non-profit organization established in 1976 to promote trade and business relations between Taiwan and the US and is very active in promoting defense-related trade.