No surprise that Trump-Xi talks featured Taiwan

BULLISH::The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is ‘more optimistic’ about securing arms sales, as the US reiterated the TRA three times ahead of the summit

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Apr 13, 2017 - Page 1

Taiwan was mentioned at the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) last week, but there was no “surprise” and the nation was not treated as a bargaining chip between the two powers, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

Unnamed US senior officials on Tuesday briefed Taipei regarding the summit.

The Taiwan issue, which was not made public previously, was raised by Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) at a closed-door meeting in the US on Saturday, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Leo Lee (李澄然) said at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee in Taipei.

“They did bring up the [Taiwan] issue, but the discussion was very brief. The US made a stereotyped reply based on its long-held position on the issue, with the Taiwan Relations Act [TRA] part of that reply,” Lee said.

Taiwan was not used as a bargaining chip during the negotiations or forced to take sides with the either party, Lee said.

The major significance of the summit was the engagement of the US and China in a “comprehensive dialogue” and a means by which the Trump administration could build a new cooperation framework with Beijing, but the effectiveness of the framework has been questioned, because key diplomatic and defense officials are yet to be appointed as infighting in the Trump team continues, the ministry said.

The summit was centered on the US’ attempt to convince China to rein in North Korea’s nuclear threat, while Taiwan, “as a responsible regional player, is cooperating with UN sanctions against North Korea, such as banning coal imports from North Korea,” Lee said.

While Washington and Beijing are on a course to redefine their bilateral framework, Taiwan should seek to deepen Taiwan-US trade relations with existing trade pacts, and the ministry would seek US reassurance that it would continue to approve arms sales to Taiwan in accordance with the TRA and the “six assurances.”

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) asked whether the US would delay arms sales to Taiwan due to Chinese pressure, citing a report that the National Security Bureau submitted to the committee warning about potential delays in arms sales or changes to the weapons available to Taiwan due to Beijing’s influence, despite promises from the Trump administration that there would be no trade-offs involving Taiwan’s status or arms sales.

There were no such warnings in reports from the ministry and the Mainland Affairs Council, which evaluated the effect of the Trump-Xi meeting on Taiwan.

Lee said the ministry was “more optimistic” about securing US arms sales, despite Chinese pressure, as US officials reiterated the US’ “one China” policy and the TRA three times ahead of the summit, a rare move that has been interpreted as a reassurance from Washington that it remains committed to Taiwan’s security.

New Power Party Legislator Freddy Lim (林昶佐) said that the government should pursue deeper ties with the US.

“While it is time to advance Taiwan-US relations, what the government seeks is to maintain the TRA and the six assurances, but we have to break away from the existing framework and seek further political promises and recognition,” Lim said.