Ministry rebuts US official on status

SYMBOLISM::The ministry defended the nation’s sovereignty and democratic values after a US official said it was not US policy to display the ROC flag on its Web sites

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter, with CNA

Sat, Feb 17, 2018 - Page 1

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday reiterated that Taiwan’s status as an independent, sovereign state is a fact and the “status quo,” after a high-level US Department of State official said the removal of the Republic of China (ROC) flag from several US government Web sites was in line with Washington’s policy.

Ministry spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said the government would continue to maintain this “status quo” and defend the nation’s democratic values and way of life.

However, Lee said Taiwan-US ties have progressed significantly over the past years thanks to the US’ Taiwan Relations Act, expressing confidence that bilateral relations would only grow stronger.

Lee made the remarks one day after US Senator Marco Rubio asked Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary at the US Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, if she was aware of the disappearance of the ROC flag from the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Web site last month.

Thorton told a meeting of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that she was aware of the flag incident, but said the Bureau of Consular Affairs’ Web site was done through a contract and was not seen by her office.

“Following the publication, we don’t recognize, of course, Taiwan as an independent country and we don’t recognize the flag of the ROC as a country where we have official relations. Our policy is to not display the flag of the ROC on US official government Web sites,” Thornton said.

When Rubio asked whether it was a new policy, as the flag had been displayed before, Thornton said that not displaying the ROC flag was not a new policy.

Aside from the consular bureau, the State Department and the Office of the US Trade Representative also removed the ROC flag in September last year and last month respectively.

In other developments, Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command (USPACOM), said at a meeting of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Armed Services on Wednesday that the US would continue to help Taiwan defend itself and that any attempt by China to force Taiwan into unification must be deemed unacceptable.

Taiwan’s open economy and prosperous, free and democratic society “reflect the shared values between Taiwan and the US,” Harris said.

While the US does not have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, “we maintain a substantive and robust relationship with the people of Taiwan based on the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979,” he added.

“In line with this policy, USPACOM will continue supporting Taiwan’s efforts to develop a credible, resilient and cost-effective deterrent and self-defense capability,” he said in a statement on the US military posture and security challenges in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

He said arms sales and training for the Taiwanese military are an important part of that policy and help ensure the preservation of Taiwan’s democratic institutions.

As China’s military spending and capability continue to grow every year, the ability of Taiwan to defend itself decreases, Harris said.

Against such a backdrop, “we must continue to help Taiwan defend itself and demonstrate US resolve that any attempt by China to force reunification on the people of Taiwan is unacceptable,” he said.

USPACOM has supported extensive security cooperation activities with Taiwan in the areas of air and missile defense, maritime security, logistics support and joint operations and training, he said.