Taiwan wishes to invite heads of US Cabinet agencies to visit this year, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) official said yesterday.
“We have always regretted that the most recent head of the US’ executive department who visited [Taiwan] came 10 years ago,” Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達), director-general of the Department of North American Affairs, told a regular press briefing, adding that the ministry would continue working toward that goal, as visits by US officials at such a level would be “a positive indicator” of Washington-Taipei relations.
He was referring to the visit by Rodney Slater, who was the US transportation secretary in June 2000, which followed a previous high-level visit by then-energy secretary Bill Richardson in 1998, during former US president Bill Clinton’s administration.
Li Da-jung (李大中), an associate professor in the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University, said the first executive department-level visit by the US to Taiwan since diplomatic ties between the two countries were severed in 1979 was made by then-US trade representative Carla Hills in 1992.
After Clinton took office in early 1993 and conducted a review of policy toward Taiwan, the US allowed high-level officials in charge of commerce and technology to visit Taipei, Li said.
“During the eight years of the Clinton administration, the administrator of the US Small Business Administration, the secretary of energy and two secretaries of transportation visited Taiwan, but during the subsequent eight-year administration of [former US president George W.] Bush, no Cabinet-level official made the trip,” he said.
Li wrote in an article in May that US President Barack Obama told President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in a message congratulating him on his 2008 election victory that the US should reopen blocked channels of communication with Taiwanese officials — but despite rumors of a high-level visit to Taipei in autumn 2009, none has taken place.
Linghu said the ministry believes there is “sincerity and goodwill on the US side” to resume visits by members of its Cabinet to Taiwan, because US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has responded positively to the possibility in response to questions from US lawmakers.
LIST OF FIELDS
The ministry wants to invite high-level US officials in the fields of economy and commerce, energy, health, anti-nuclear proliferation and anti-terrorism to discuss cooperation projects between the two countries, Linghu said.
Meanwhile, the ministry declined to confirm a report that former US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld would visit Taipei in October.