US official vows no talk of F-16s on Biden’s visit

PROMISE::The official said the US doesn’t negotiate with China on its Taiwan Relations Act obligations, while other officials said no decision had been made on the fighters

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 - Page 1

A senior White House official has promised that US Vice President Joe Biden will not discuss US arms sales to Taiwan during his visit to China this week.

“I think it’s important to make clear that the vice president has no plans to raise the Taiwan issue, certainly not arms sales during his trip,” US National Security Council Senior Director for Asian Affairs Danny Russel said during a press briefing on Monday.

“He is not going to China to address that issue. He is going to address the broad spectrum of security, economic and political issues that we and China have to work together on,” Russel said.

He had been asked if the US was concerned that “any F-16 sales announcement” might have an impact on Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) reciprocal visit to the US or even Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) trip to Hawaii for the APEC summit and if Biden would “try to explain to the Chinese why the US has to do what it is required by law to do.”

Russel said it would “not be surprising at all” if the Chinese raise the Taiwan issue and “convey their views and their concerns.”

However, he said: “Our China policy is unchanged. It’s based on the three US-China communiques. And our policy toward Taiwan is based on the Taiwan Relations Act, and there is no change in that.”

“We take our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act very seriously and we don’t negotiate these issues with China,” he said.

While Russel did not specifically mention reports from Taiwan that the US has decided not to sell Taipei the 66 F-16C/D aircraft that it wants, other senior officials throughout the administration of US President Barack Obama were adamant on Monday that no decision had yet been made.

Senior officials at the White House, the Pentagon and the US Department of State all denied the reports that originated in Defense News on Sunday night.

Defense News quoted an unnamed Ministry of National Defense official as saying that bowing to Chinese pressure, the US would deny Taiwan’s request for the fighters.

The report said a US Department of Defense delegation was in Taipei last week to deliver the news and offer instead a retrofit package for older F-16A/Bs.

Russel said there had been “considerable progress” in cross-strait dialogue to reduce tensions and that US policy supported an environment that was conducive to the improved relations that at the same time allowed US-China relations to flourish.

Asked directly to comment on the Defense News report, Russel said: “No, I won’t comment specifically on a particular story other than to say that we take our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act very seriously.”

“That’s manifest in the Obama administration’s decision to conclude an arms sale to Taiwan last year,” he said.

“And this really isn’t what the vice president’s trip is about. The vice president’s trip is about deepening our relationships and our cooperative efforts in Asia,” Russel said.

Tony Blinken, national security adviser to Biden, said the vice president’s trip would reinforce the US as a Pacific power whose interests were inextricably linked with Asia’s economic security and political order.

He said the trip would begin with four days in China — in Beijing and Chengdu, Sichuan Province. Biden would then go to Mongolia for a day and Japan for two days.

“One of the primary purposes of the trip is to get to know China’s future leadership, to build a relationship with Vice President Xi and to discuss with him and other Chinese leaders the full breadth of issues in the US-China relationship. Simply put, we’re investing in the future of the US-China relationship,” Blinken said.

“Naturally, there are issues that the Chinese themselves typically raise, like Taiwan and Tibet. And there are issues that every senior official who meets with Chinese leaders is going to raise, like human rights,” Russel said.

He said Obama had met the Dalai Lama in the White House last month and the US position on Tibet was “consistent and clear.”

“As we do consistently, we will raise our concerns about the human rights situation throughout China. We do this directly and privately with Chinese leaders and policymakers,” Russel said.