Mon, Oct 24, 2011 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Wolfowitz praises Taiwan’s democratic legacy

Former US deputy secretary of defense and current US-Taiwan Business Council chairman Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, sat down with 'Taipei Times' staff reporter J. Michael Cole in Taipei on Saturday night to discuss US arms sales, China and the future of Taiwan

Obviously the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] would want a different approach to cross-strait ties, but I don’t think [DPP Chairperson] Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) would want a repeat of the bad experience of the Chen period.

TT: What is it that the Chen administration did wrong?

PW: I think just too much provoking the mainland [China] with the idea that they were inching in the direction of independence. That’s the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] red line and it does not improve Taiwan’s security to keep agitating that red line.

TT: Surely you’re referring to Chen’s second term. In his first term, Chen made a series of promises on no declaration of independence or revisions to the Constitution, and his administration did try to engage Beijing, but got little reciprocity. Aren’t accusations that Chen was too ‘radical’ a bit unfair?

PW: In this respect I may show that I was distracted by a couple of small wars that we had underway, [but] as a matter of fact, this is more [US] State Department business than [US] Department of Defense. But I don’t think the US side handled its side of it terribly well either.

There could have been a little more understanding of Chen’s situation.

TT: What do you make of the National Security Council ‘leak’ to the ‘Financial Times’ when Tsai was visiting the US last month, in which a US official said a DPP win in next year’s elections would be destabilizing?

PW: It was inappropriate and I don’t know what factual basis they were basing this on. As an American official I would be very careful about taking sides in a democratic election.

It’s a rare thing to do, and it’s rarely a good thing to do. I don’t know what they had in mind. I find it clumsy and surprising.

TT: What would be the strategic impact of a Taiwan that becomes part of China, especially if China were to build military bases on Taiwan?

PW: My concern is preserving peace here. If what you’re describing happened peacefully, we would have to live with it.

I do hope they wouldn’t go so far as to build military bases here, but if they did, we’d live with it. I don’t think it would be so terrible.

TT: Any movement on free-trade talks between the US and Taiwan?

PW: I have a feeling that maybe they can finally move on the beef issue after the election.

The passage of the [South] Korean FTA [Free Trade Agreement] has been very healthy. The Koreans now have a competitive advantage over Taiwan and this makes these folks [Taiwanese officials] nervous, which is useful, and they’ve demonstrated that they are capable of putting the beef issue behind [them].

I’d like to see progress on the TIFA [Trade and Investment Framework Agreement], but realistically it’s not going to happen until they address the beef issue.

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