Commenting on the recent visit to China by a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) delegation, a senior US official said Beijing must reach out to all political parties in Taiwan, not just the KMT, in order to ease cross-strait tensions.
Randall Schriver, the deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of China and Taiwan, did not criticize the KMT trip, but he said the US sees "complications down the road if Beijing is only reaching out to the opposition party."
Schriver described the trip as "on the margins," but said that "dialogue is better than no dialogue."
Nevertheless, he said that "ultimately for these to be meaningful discussions, Beijing has to start to reach out to the elected leaders in Taiwan on the executive side and in the legislative branch. So, all parties need to be a part of the process."
Schriver's comments were the first extensive discussion of US policy by an administration official since the KMT trip. Earlier, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli seemed to support the trip, saying the US welcomed any visit that contributed to cross-strait dialogue.
Earlier this week, Chiang Chao-yi (
But during a press conference with Taiwanese media in Washington on Tuesday, Chiang conceded that some of the feedback may have come from think tank scholars rather than officials. He said the officials neither welcomed nor criticized the trip.
Schriver was speaking to reporters after testifying at a congressional hearing on China's "Anti-Secession" Law.
In his presentation to the Asia subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, Schriver largely repeated previous administration comments on the matter, but in terms stronger than other officials used.
"Passage of the legislation has undermined, rather than raised, confidence and trust across the Strait," he said. "We continue to be concerned about an unhelpful cycle of action and reaction."
Given the "aggressive military build-up opposite Taiwan," he added, "we have cause to register strong concern."
Nevertheless, Schriver said that passage of the law will not bring about a change in US policy.
"We do not believe it requires a shift in our approach to the issue," he said.
Subcommittee chairman James Leach, a strong supporter of Taiwan in Congress, warned both sides against moves that would escalate tensions.
"An alarming build-up of polarizing attitudes is occurring on both sides of the Taiwan Strait," Leach said in a long, detailed opening statement. "Whether prospects of conflict are 50 percent or only 5 percent, they are too high. The human toll could be great ... causing impacts that could last decades after any conflict concluded."
He also warned Taiwan about actions that could exacerbate tensions, and which could make the US decide not to aid Taiwan in case of attack.
US commitments in the Taiwan Relations Act to come to Taiwan's defense "presuppose that Taiwanese leaders must understand the realities of mainland resolve and refrain from capricious actions that invite conflicts or make constructive dialogue impossible," he said.
While a unilateral Chinese attack on Taiwan would "necessarily precipitate an American reaction, a unilateral political effort by Taiwan to seek independence and dissolve all bonds with China would cause America's commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act to become inoperative," Leach warned.
On the other hand, he noted, Taiwan "can have self-determination as long as they do not seek independence."
Otherwise, self-determination would "collapse with hundreds of thousands if not millions of lives becoming jeopardized."
In his testimony, Schriver said Washington felt that China "clearly had options" other than to enact the Anti-Secession Law. He said that Beijing should instead take positive action to make a good impression on Taiwan. He cited the World Health Organization as an example, and said China should take a "more compassionate view" of the need for Taiwan to participate in the organization.
"This would be an excellent time to facilitate participation" by Taiwan in the organization, he said.
Afterwards, Schriver told reporters that the US was not aware of any specific commitment by Beijing to facilitate Taiwan's participation in this year's World Health Assembly, as Taiwanese newspapers reported last week.
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