Kurt Campbell said at his Senate confirmation hearing on his nomination for assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs that there were “discussions under way right now” on the outstanding request for arms sales to Taiwan.
But he declined to reveal his own stance on the issue when the Foreign Relations Asia subcommittee’s Democratic chairman Senator Jim Webb asked Campbell for his position on supplying Taiwan with F-16 fighter jets, Black Hawk helicopters and design assistance for diesel electric submarines.
“There are specifics — discussions under way right now. I’m not in the Department of State, so I’m not going to comment on them,” Campbell said.
He said the US stood firmly and very clearly behind the Taiwan Relations Act and that it would abide by the Act and the Three Communiques between the US and the People’s Republic of China.
A close friend of US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Campbell is expected to be confirmed with little difficulty. He could be in place as the US’ top diplomat in East Asia by the end of this month.
His remarks were the first confirmation that the administration of US President Barack Obama was working on arms sales to Taiwan. Earlier this week, there were also strong indications that the sale of F-16 fighters would have Congressional support.
“I think the American commitment to the maintenance of peace across the Taiwan Strait between China and Taiwan is very strong. And I think that’s a bipartisan commitment,” Campbell said.
“Sometimes there’s toing and froing, but if you look over the course of many administrations, there’s been a very clear determination to follow strictly and carefully the guidelines set forth in the Taiwan Relations Act. And that is to provide the appropriate defense articles to Taiwan, to consult closely with Congress and to ensure that the Taiwanese have the confidence of the United States as they embark upon diplomacy with China,” he said.
An Asia scholar with a good record on Taiwan, he is believed to favor the launching of a new Taiwan Policy Review, which is expected to get underway this summer.
Campbell is also thought to favor the sale of F-16s to Taiwan.
Reflecting the Obama administration’s support for President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) closer ties to China, Campbell said: “In a world in which there are a lot of very real concerns, there occasionally are some signs of hope. And one of the things that we’ve seen over the course of the last several months, last couple of years, is an active diplomacy emerging between China and Taiwan.”
“I think the United States encourages that diplomacy. We want to make sure that it continues in a peaceful way; and that we think we can provide the best context for that by both engaging China and also committing to Taiwan that we will meet their essential defensive needs,” he said.
He said that the ultimate point in the Taiwan Relations Act was the US’ role.
“And that continues to be very firm in terms of our response to any potential provocation — of which, right now, we don’t see any,” Campbell said. “We see a very important process that’s under way that we support.”
In an opening statement, Campbell said the US relationship with China was complex and developing rapidly.
“The ability to conduct frank and honest conversations about the difficult issues where we disagree will be an essential element of our approach,” Campbell said. “The American people expect us to continue the promotion of human rights and religious freedom for all China’s citizens and development of the rule of law and civil society remain strong pillars of our engagement.”
Campbell said: “Finally, I support the long-standing US commitment to the one-China policy based on the Three Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act, which have served to preserve peace and stability across the strait for the last three decades. We are committed to making available to Taiwan the defense articles and services required for a sufficient self-defense. We welcome recent initiatives from both sides of the Taiwan Strait that have increased interaction and dialogue and reduced tensions.”
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