Wed, Dec 13, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Mayoral elections provide `boost' to US-Taiwan ties

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

People First Party (PFP) leader James Soong's (宋楚瑜) marginalization after last weekend's mayoral election should provide a "tremendous boost" to US-Taiwan relations by making it easier for the Legislative Yuan to agree on the purchase of the long-stalled US arms package, a former senior State Department official said in Washington on Monday.

But the ex-official, former deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of Taiwan and China issues, Randall Schriver, said that other than that, the overall impact of the elections on bilateral relations would be "minimal."

Meanwhile, the State Department had little to say about the elections.

"We congratulate the people of Taiwan for participating in democracy," one department official said. "[But] we do not comment on internal Taiwan affairs."

Schriver made his comments at a seminar at the Heritage Foundation on the results of the Taipei and Kaohsiung elections.

Soong and the PFP have long been opponents of the arms package, seeing the purchase as too costly and too provocative to China.

With Soong and the PFP weakened, he said, "to the extent that you believe that the KMT's [Chinese Nationalist Party] inability to get a consensus view among the blue camp behind either the supplemental [arms] budget or increases to the regular budget, and that Soong was somehow blackmailing them or playing politics with the arms package, I think he will be marginalized a bit more and this will give the KMT the ability to perhaps achieve a consensus behind the package."

"[This] would be a tremendous boost to US-Taiwan relations from Washington's perspective," Shriver said.

Overall, he said that the election results would not have much of an impact on bilateral relations.

"This is a vote for the status quo and stability," he said.

If the KMT had won both elections, he said, that could have hurt relations with Washington.

The victories would require changes in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leadership and "require Chen to do something to respond to the pressure," whether to take a leave of absence, or delegate more power to the premier.

"The management of our bilateral business would have been a little more difficult if our primary interlocutor in the executive branch was under so much turmoil," Schriver said.

"The US cares about a manageable cross-strait environment, not marked by radical moves or surprises," Schriver said.

"If the DPP had suffered deep losses, it might have prompted a more aggressive agenda, a more robust independence-minded agenda, if the DPP were to feel more desperate, or feel more confident," Schriver said.

US-Taiwan relations would benefit as a result of the fact that the elections were successful, boosting Taiwan's democracy, he said.

"The quality of US-Taiwan relations is predicated on a strong democracy in Taiwan," he said.

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