The next US administration is unlikely to make any groundbreaking move on the Taiwan issue, but the future of Taiwan-US relations remains promising, US academics said yesterday, while urging the incoming Taiwanese government to work on conveying a unified voice in Washington to consolidate support.
The academics in Washington made the comments during a videoconference organized by the American Institute in Taiwan.
The US is limited by its own “one China” policy and its increasingly complex relations with the People’s Republic of China, but the “incoming administration, no matter who is elected, will adhere to the current framework,” said Bonnie Glaser, a senior associate at the Hawaii-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
However, Washington and Taipei should hold more regular consultations and resume dialogue with the National Security Council on security issues, Glaser said.
Such interactions would serve the mutual interests of both sides, she added.
Glaser encouraged president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to stay away from any ideological rhetoric that could rock the warming triangular relationship between the US, Taiwan and China.
Robert Sutter, a visiting professor from Georgetown University and a specialist on Asia-Pacific affairs and US foreign policy, urged Ma’s team to be pragmatic by seeking incremental progress in ameliorating Taiwan-US relations, instead of pining for a rapid breakthrough.
What Washington wants, he said, is stability.
But what Taiwan needs is to dispatch a representative to Washington with a centrist approach to unify the voices of the various supporters of Taiwan, Sutter said
Moreover, Taiwan needs to follow a “pragmatic strategy” in its defense efforts.
Alan Romberg, senior distinguished fellow of the Stimson Center, said that lifting the ban on visits to the US by high-ranking Taiwanese officials might not serve Taiwan’s interest because such action could create mistrust between Beijing and Washington.
Romberg said the US would not challenge nor accept, but only acknowledge China’s “one China” policy. However, the US has been and will continue to lobby for Taiwan’s membership in international bodies that do not require statehood as well as increasingly meaningful engagement in organizations open only to sovereign states.
The US, Taiwan and China could try to work out a new formulation to ensure a seat for Taiwan at the IMF and the World Bank, which was one of the promises Ma made during his campaign.
Glaser and Sutter echoed Romberg’s view on restrictions on high-level meetings between Taiwanese and US officials, saying that the breakdown in communications between Taipei and Washington over the past eight years was not a direct result of the travel ban, but rather because of disagreements over policies and interests.
On the sale of F-16 C/D fighters to Taiwan, Shutter said it would be useful if Taiwan could work constructively on the Bush administration to persuade it that Taiwan has an effective defense strategy and that the advanced jet fighters are important to that strategy.
He contended that if the sale is not approved before the Bush administration hands over power to the new government, it would be much harder for the new US administration to approve such a sale.
“The reason being is that pressure from the People’s Republic of China will be very strong because they want to be assured of the orientation of the new US administration and will be very sensitive to actions the US takes, more sensitive than it would be with the Bush administration,” he said.