Clinton praises change in China, Taiwan relations

ARMS SALE::Sources said Beijing again pressed the US on the issue of weapons sales to Taiwan, and that the US said sales would continue ‘as needed’

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

Fri, May 13, 2011 - Page 1

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has praised Beijing for “creating more positive feelings” between China and Taiwan.

Clinton said she had “expressed respect” for China’s cross-strait economic and other activities during the latest round of US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which was held on Monday and Tuesday in Washington.

“The relationship between China and Taiwan, it appears, is on a much better basis,” she said.

While there has been no official confirmation, sources close to US President Barack Obama’s administration have said in private that China raised the issue of US arms sales to Taiwan and repeated its usual objections. The sources said the US acknowledged the complaint, but insisted that arms sales would continue “as needed.”

Despite being pressed, the US refused to say if it would sell advanced F-16 aircraft to Taiwan.

Asked specifically about arms sales to Taiwan during a TV interview, Clinton skirted the question by saying: “What we have continued to stress is that we want to see an improvement in China-Taiwan relations and it is important for both sides to work together.

“But our position has always been based on the three communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act, and it has not changed and it will not change,” she said.

She also refused to be drawn on a question about Taiwanese independence.

“Our position is still the ‘one China’ policy,” Clinton said. “We don’t take a position on Taiwan elections or Taiwan political statements. That’s for the Taiwanese people. But we do believe that the more there can be cooperative arrangements, like the recent economic agreements that were reached between Taiwan and China, the better that is for everyone.”

A joint statement issued at the close of the talks said the two sides had discussed “major bilateral, regional and global issues.”

They would “nurture and deepen bilateral strategic trust” and work together to build a cooperative partnership, the statement said.

While there were no specific breakthroughs on policy, both sides agreed on a total of 48 separate issues, including an agreement to establish a US-China “consultation” on maintaining peace in the Asia-Pacific region. The first round of the “consultation” is to be held “at the earliest time this year.”

Taiwan was not mentioned at all in the five-page statement.

Beijing’s team at the talks was headed by Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan (王岐山), a top economic policymaker and State Councilor Dai Bingguo (戴秉國), a top foreign-policy official. For the first time, representatives from the US and Chinese militaries took part.

“What I am particularly pleased about is I believe we have developed greater understanding of one another and more trust,” Clinton said in her TV interview. “And during the course of my extensive meetings in the strategic track, I think we have crossed a bridge so that we are willing to discuss at greater length difficult, sensitive matters.”

“For the first time ever, we had a special meeting that included military and civilian officials talking about strategic security issues. We don’t want misunderstanding and miscalculation. Where we have a difference, we want to be very clear about that difference so that there’s no confusion,” she said.