The case of a Taiwanese military officer spying for China is not likely to affect communications and dialogue between Taiwan and the US, Taiwan’s deputy representative in Washington said yesterday.
Over the years, Taiwan and the US have built mutual trust, which will not be affected by the recent espionage case, Leo Lee (李澄然) said at a routine news briefing.
He was referring to the case of General Lo Hsien-che (羅賢哲), who has been detained on charges of espionage, following searches of his residence and office on Jan. 25. The 51-year-old one-star general is one of the highest-ranking military officials to have been accused of spying for China in more than two decades.
Lo reportedly had access to a joint Taiwan-US military communications project known as Po Sheng, which gave rise to concern that the espionage case could affect Taiwan’s military trust and cooperation with the US and even its procurement of US-built weapons.
However, Lee said Lo’s alleged act of betrayal is not expected to hinder US arms sales to Taiwan, a view that US authorities also expressed after the case broke.
Asked when routine talks under the Taiwan-US Trade and -Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), signed in September 1994, are likely to resume, Lee said the two sides are in the process of discussing relevant matters.
He stressed that both sides have agreed to resume bilateral talks under the TIFA, which provides an official framework for Taiwan-US dialogue on trade and economic issues in the absence of formal diplomatic ties.
However, the two countries have not held any TIFA talks since 2007, chiefly because of a conflict over Taiwan’s ban on US beef imports over mad cow disease concerns.
As Taiwan has opened its market wider to US beef since late 2009, the two sides were scheduled to resume TIFA talks in Taipei in late last month, but the US decided to postpone the talks indefinitely after some US beef products were pulled from the market because they were found to contain residue of an animal muscle-growth drug.
Lee said the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Department of Health were weighing how to resolve the issue and he believes that both agencies are moving in the right direction.
However, the diplomat declined to comment as to whether Taiwan would employ the minimum residual level to be announced by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
Existing law bans the use of any animal feed additives, such as ractopamine, which promotes leanness in pork and beef, in Taiwan.
The US has urged Taiwan to follow in the footsteps of other countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand and set an acceptable minimum residual level for ractopamine in pork and beef.