Beef dispute will not impact US visa program: Armitage

By Vincent Y. Chao and Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporters

Tue, Mar 29, 2011 - Page 1

The ongoing beef dispute between Taiwan and the US will not affect the US visa-waiver program for Taiwan, former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage said in Taipei yesterday.

Armitage, whose delegation came at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), met a number of government officials and party heavyweights, including Foreign Affairs Minister Timothy Yang (楊進添), National Security Council Secretary-General Hu Wei-jen (胡為真) and the Democratic Progressive Party’s Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in the afternoon.

Included in the delegation are representatives from the Project 2049 Institute

“I was briefed on it [the visa-waiver program] today by the American Institute in Taiwan,” Armitage said after meeting Tsai. “It’s separate, it won’t be affected by the beef issue.”

He added that the two sides could work out any remaining roadblocks on the matter.

Since 2005, Taiwan has been on a list of “road map” countries the US is considering giving visa-waiver privileges, although it still must meet some requirements, including more stringent processes regarding passport applications.

There were concerns earlier this month that the program had been derailed following remarks by MOFA officials on the controversial import ban on US beef products containing the banned chemical ractopamine.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) said on March 18 that Taipei was informed it would have to see progress on the beef import dispute before talks on the visa-waiver agreement could take place.

On the issue of US arms sales to Taiwan, including a longstanding request for F-16C/D aircraft, Armitage said he believed that US President Barack Obama’s administration “was serious” about the issue, but did not know what the end result would be.

“I don’t know the plans of the administration, [but] I think that they are serious and they want to continue to provide as the Taiwan Relations Act requires them to for the defensive needs of Taiwan,” he said.

“They’ve already come through with one package of sales and they’ve got some other replacement and spare parts that are still on the line,” he said.

After his 40-minute, closed-door meeting with Armitage, Yang told the Taipei Times by telephone that Armitage “highly approved of” the cross-strait policies adopted since Ma came into office and that he “was very supportive of” the policies, as they have smoothed cross-strait relations.

Yang said he exchanged ideas with Armitage on a variety of issues of mutual interest, including cross-strait relations and regional stability.

On the rationale of resuming dialogue with China after Ma was elected in 2008, Yang said he told Armitage that Taiwan had decided to adopt a practical approach on cross-strait relations so that both sides can set aside disputes, improve the relationship and create a win-win situation.

During their meeting, Yang said he also explained the content of the so-called “1992 consensus,” an issue Armitage was interested in.

Yang said Taiwan would like to strengthen cooperation with the US in various areas for the development of regional peace and stability, and he also called on the US to grant Taiwan the F-16C/Ds it has requested.

Before leaving tomorrow, Armitage is scheduled to meet President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Mainland Affairs Council Minister Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛), Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).