Sun, Jan 08, 2006 - Page 3 News List

US disappointed by cross-strait ties: official

IMPASSE A senior US official said that Washington is discouraged to see that progress on charter flights and fruit tariffs has not led to direct contact between the two sides

By Nadia Tsao  /  STAFF REPORTER

The US government is disappointed by the current state of cross-strait relations, according to a senior Bush administration official who gave a briefing to the Liberty Times -- the Taipei Times' sister newspaper.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, emphasized that the two sides of the strait have continued to avoid direct official dialogue, and that if Taiwan was not willing to make concessions on cross-strait economic policy, and refused to move ahead with direct links with Beijing, it would not be in the best interests of the US.

The official, who is closely involved in cross-strait affairs, said the statements of both Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) revealed that the two sides were still unable to negotiate directly, and and that this has limited the impact of developments such as direct flights for the Lunar New Year last year, China's offering of pandas to Taiwan as a gift and its offer to reduce tariffs on some Taiwanese fruit imports.

From the US perspective, and especially for companies based in Taiwan, there is a strong hope that restrictions on cross-strait links will be reduced so that Taiwan can be used as a base for outward expansion, the official said. The US sees globalization as beneficial to its commercial interests and therefore the lack of improvement in the cross-strait economic ties is discouraging.

The official emphasized that a deterioration in China-Taiwan relations was not in the US' interest.

As to whether China will respond to US encouragement to engage in dialogue with Taiwan, the official said that Beijing had already made some moves to approach Taiwan's people, legislators and opposition leaders, and even suggested that the head of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), might visit. He said that these were steps in the right direction, but were insufficient. It is still necessary for Beijing to approach Taiwan's current government, the official said.

He accepted that both sides had their own pressures to deal with, and also had to protect their own interests. Although many challenges lie ahead before official dialogue can begin, there is still hope for an improvement in cross-strait relations over the next two years, the official said.

As to Chen Shui-bian's recent statements advocating a new constitution, the official said that while Chen did not specifically repeat his "four noes" pledge in his New Year's speech, the US State Department hopes that Taiwan will not deviate from these commitments.

Chen first made the pledges in 2000. The "four noes" refer to Chen's promises to refrain from declaring independence, changing the nation's title, pushing for the inclusion of the state-to-state description of cross-strait relations in the Constitution or promoting a referendum to change the status quo on independence or unification during his term.

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