In the convoluted policy arena of US-Taiwan relations, few strands of that slippery friendship are more elusive than the concept of former US president Ronald Reagan's "six assurances," an affirmation that Washington would not sell out Taiwan to Beijing's ambitions or leave Taiwan defenseless.
Representative to Washington Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) added complexity to that issue on Thursday when he bemoaned the fact that the real six assurances are a US state secret and the common understanding of the assurances may be simply an approximation or inaccurate.
The issue surfaced late last month when President Chen Shui-bian (
Chen's plea was prompted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of South Korea's rejection of Taiwan's bid to join a UN convention on discrimination against women when he cited a UN resolution claiming Taiwan was part of China.
US policy, including the six assurances, does not support that interpretation, Chen argued, urging Burghardt to get Washington to reiterate the six assurances, which are ambivalent on the issue of Taiwan's sovereignty.
US President George W. Bush's administration never responded to Chen's plea.
The trouble is that there is no "official" text version of the assurances, at least none that is publicly available, Wu said.
And, historians say, the assurance on sovereignty, the "fuzzy" fifth of the six assurances, which Chen relied upon when asking for a US reiteration, had uncertain origins.
"There is some difference of recollections about the origins of the assurance regarding sovereignty," Henry J. Stimson Center scholar Alan Romberg said in a major 2003 work on US-Taiwan relations titled Rein In at the Brink of the Precipice, in which he cites interviews with major players at the time.
Romberg does not take sides as to which version is accurate.
The one possible authentic version is in the Reagan Presidential Library in California. But that is classified secret and cannot be accessed without State Department approval, Wu told the Taiwan Washington press corps during his regular monthly "tea party" press conference.
The department has not given its authority for the document to be made public, Wu said, so it's contents can only be conjectured at.
Another version is held in secret in the files of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but Wu says he has never seen it.
There are at least several versions of the six assurances, none of them necessarily accurate, Wu told reporters.
"We have on different occasions pressed [Bush] administration officials in the hope that they can reiterate [the assurances] to Taiwan so that Taiwan does not have to worry that the United States' position has changed," Wu told the Taipei Times.
"What we have found is that there are quite a few different versions of the content of the six assurances, and we are trying to work out for our own part which is the most authentic version," Wu said. "So when we can establish that document, then we will make an effort to make sure that the US position beginning from 1982 has not changed," he said.
The Reagan library "should have one of those original letters [to then president Chiang Ching-kuo
Regarding the ministry's reputed copy of the letter, Wu said the ministry "has a document or a record of it, and we tried to find out what was in it. But we were told by the ministry that it is top secret and they are not able to release it. So we stopped going there," he said.
Nevertheless, even if US officials reiterated the commitment to the six assurances without specifying the contents of the document, "that would be very important to Taiwan," he said.
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