A senior White House official said on Monday that the US would continue to support efforts by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to forge stronger ties with Beijing.
Ben Rhodes, the deputy US national security advisor for strategic communications, said the administration of US President Barack Obama had always backed Ma’s pursuit of better relations across the Taiwan Strait.
“We will continue to support these efforts — maintaining, of course, our close relationship with Taiwan,” he said. “But again, I think we see promise going forward for there to be continued efforts to make greater cross-strait ties and the US will support that.”
Rhodes was addressing the Washington-based Center for American Progress on the subject of the Obama administration’s national security policy.
He stressed the importance of the Feb. 14 visit to the US of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平), who is expected to take over as Chinese Communist Party general secretary later this year and the Chinese presidency in March next year.
Rhodes said the visit was “one more marker, one more milestone” in the White House’s ability to keep channels open with the Chinese government and to “make sure we have a mechanism to address the issues both on the security side and on the economic side.”
He said the Obama administration had “deeply invested” in its China policy.
“We have set up very regular mechanisms to communicate with the Chinese,” Rhodes said.
He added that Obama had conducted more engagements with his Chinese counterpart than any US president.
Asked how he saw the relationship with China developing and what the probable “hot spots” were, Rhodes delivered a broad outline of current policy, but did not mention Taiwan as part of it.
He said the US felt the need to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region to protect its own interests and also because other nations in the region wanted the US to be there.
Rhodes said that these other nations wanted the US to work with China on a cooperative basis.
“We are going to disagree with the Chinese on some issues, but we are going to work together where we have common interests,” he said.
“Where we disagree, we are going to make clear what the differences are. We will press China directly where we feel they are outside the international norm,” Rhodes said.
Addressing foreign reporters in Washington late last year, Rhodes had said the US had a longstanding security relationship with Taiwan that involved “communication between our militaries and sales from the US to the Taiwanese military.”
He said the relationship had played an important role in fostering a “stable region.”
“I think the context is very much one of the US support for a ‘one China’ policy and for there to be a reduction in any tensions in cross-strait ties,” he said.
“We’ve always viewed this as a situation where there’s a concurrent responsibility for the US to maintain our relationship with Taiwan as it relates to a military-to-military relationship, but also an economic partnership that has benefited both the US and Taiwan,” Rhodes said. “But the broader context is the US support for a ‘one China’ policy and for a reduction in any cross-strait tensions.”