American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt yesterday said US arms sales to Taiwan would continue, but he remained noncommittal on the 66 F-16C/Ds requested by Taipei.
Burghardt, who is in the country on a five-day visit, said that while “arms sales will continue,” the highly anticipated fighter aircraft sale was “an old subject.”
“It always comes up in all discussions here,” he told the Taipei Times. “I would say the same I said the last time I was here: It is an issue that we continue to consider.”
Burghardt did not directly comment on questions about remarks by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) that the US had been unwilling to accept any preliminary discussions on the sale of F-16C/Ds.
The two are expected to meet today, with the arms package that both Taiwanese politicians and US lawmakers have lobbied for expected to be on the agenda.
Taiwan submitted three letters of request for the F-16C/Ds between 2006 and 2007, but the US government has reportedly refused to handle the appeals.
Burghardt said he “didn’t come this time with any kind of special message from Washington.”
“And I’m not coming to brief on any recent meeting we had with our friends in mainland China,” he told an afternoon meeting with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文). “I’m here to listen, here to exchange views about relations between the US and Taiwan.”
“We had a good talk. I always enjoy talking with my friend Dr Tsai,” Burghardt said after the talks. “We talked about the election and also issues about US relations with Taiwan ... Today was a very pleasant, very good-humored conversation.”
Speaking on the presidential and legislative elections, Burghardt said AIT had “high respect for the fact that Taiwan has a real democracy,” adding that despite following the election closely, “we stay neutral.”
Following his meeting with Tsai, Burghardt met Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) for about an hour, and then spoke with reporters.
Asked about the US probe into the death of Wu Lai-yu (吳來于), a Taiwanese captain of the hijacked fishing vessel Jih Chun Tsai No. 68, in a gunfight between the US Navy and Somali pirates, Burghardt said” “I am not here to talk about the subject.”
“I was here to see the president, to talk about the coming election and to talk about the whole range of issues of US-Taiwan relations. The subject is something the military is investigating. I am not here to talk about the issue,” he said.
Asked to comment on ideas floated to revise the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), Burghardt said: “The TRA has done very well since 1979 and no one has any plan to change it.”
As for the long delay in the resumption of talks on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, Wang said Burghardt had explained “unequivocally” that the matter was dragged down because of Taiwan’s ban on US beef products containing ractopamine.