A top US diplomat on Monday said that Washington had “very important” unofficial relations with Taiwan, but sidestepped specific questions on recent developments.
US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel refused to say if anyone from the US Department of State would meet with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) when he makes a stopover in New York next month.
Russel also avoided a question about what the State Department would do to enable Taiwan’s participation in the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Russel, appointed to replace his popular predecessor, Kurt Campbell, who left to set up a private consultancy, made the comments at a briefing of the foreign press in his first public appearance since taking over from Campbell a week ago.
He said that he planned to travel a lot through the “immensely important” region of East Asia and that US President Barack Obama would allow “no let-up, no back-tracking, no diminution” in commitments to “rebalance” US interests and investments in the region.
After mentioning “major allies” Japan and South Korea and the “hugely consequential relationship” with China, Russel also praised Taiwan’s democracy and economy.
“I think it is fair to say our relationships in the area are very strong,” he said.
Russel said East Asia was experiencing an “extraordinary period” of growth and prosperity and that sustaining it was central to US interests.
When he was asked if the US government approving Taipei’s request for Ma to stop over in New York during an upcoming journey to Latin America and the Caribbean reflected the current status of US-Taiwan relations, Russel said: “The starting point for any conversation about US policy in Taiwan is that it is consistent.”
He said the “one China” policy had been sustained through eight administrations and that it was based on the three communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act.
“It will continue to inform our approach,” he said.
“We respect and admire the progress that has been made in cross-strait relations under President Ma Ying-jeou’s tenure,” Russel added.
He said that the dialogue fostered by Ma had provided benefits to people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and to the rest of the region “in terms of stability and prosperity.”
However, Russel stressed that progress in cross-strait relations could only go as fast as the people of Taiwan would accept it to.
When asked about legislation recently signed by Obama supporting Taiwan’s participation in the ICAO and for details about what the State Department would do to support this bid, Russel said Washington supported Taipei’s participation in international organizations where statehood is not a requirement.
“We welcome and encourage participation where membership is not mandatory and we will continue to support Taiwan’s participation,” he said.
However, Russel declined to explain this stance in greater detail.