Now is not an opportune time for the top leaders on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to engage in dialogue, two noted US academics said Friday.
Gary Schmitt, executive director of the Project for the New American Century, and Dan Blumenthal, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, made the remarks while meeting with a group of Taiwan journalists.
Their comments came a day after President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said he would be willing to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in a third country with no prerequisites, and added that the US could be a possible bridge or platform for such a cross-strait meeting.
To the best of his understanding, Schmitt said, the Bush administration will not get involved in cross-strait affairs and instead looks forward to seeing direct engagements between the Taipei and Beijing.
Even though dialogue can help ease tensions, Schmitt said Taiwan should be cautious and prudent in dealing with China. From a long-term perspective, he said, Taiwan should wait until after China has engaged in political reform. Before that, cross-strait dialogue will not achieve any major breakthrough, he predicted.
Blumenthal echoed Schmitt's view, saying that cross-strait talks, even high-level ones, could hardly achieve substantive results because of the different political systems on either side of the Strait.
He further said it would be "tough and dangerous" if the US were to get involved in a proposed cross-strait summit meeting. The pitfall could lie in the possibility that the US would pressure Taiwan to compromise in the course of cross-strait dialogue in exchange for China's cooperation in other fields, Blumenthal said, adding that if such a scenario does happen, Taiwan could suffer setbacks.
No matter whether a cross-strait summit could become a reality, Blumenthal said, the US must face up squarely to China's ever-growing military build-up.
In addition to pushing for China to dismantle its missiles targeting Taiwan, the US should also demand that China consider Chen's proposal that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait forge a military mutual trust mechanism, he said.
Given the imbalance in the two sides' military strength, Blumenthal said the right time has yet to come for Taiwan to hold a meeting with China.