Wed, Mar 26, 2014 - Page 3 News List

TRADE PACT SIEGE: US stays neutral on pact, lauds Taiwan democracy

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

US Department of State spokeswoman Marie Harf on Monday said Washington supports Taiwan’s “vibrant democracy” and how it allows “robust political dialogue.”

Harf made the remarks in response to a question about the student-led demonstrations in Taipei against the government’s handling of the cross-strait service trade agreement with China.

“The agreement on cross-strait trade in services is an issue for Taiwan to decide,” she said. “We hope that the discussion can be conducted peacefully and civilly.”

“We have welcomed steps taken by both sides on the Taiwan Strait to reduce tensions and improve relations between Taipei and Beijing,” she said. “We’d encourage them to continue this constructive dialogue and again, the specific agreement is really an issue for them to decide.”

Asked if the US was offering any counsel or advice to President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government on how to deal with the demonstrators, Harf said that to her knowledge, that was not the case.

Harf also said she had not heard any concern expressed within US President Barack Obama’s the administration that the protests may spread and destabilize Taiwan.

The department’s statement came as the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) called on the US government and Congress to “express deep concern” about the police response to the protests.

FAPA, which represents many Taiwanese-American organizations, asked Washington to urge Taipei “to exercise the utmost restraint in using police force, in order to prevent further bloodshed and deeper polarization of Taiwan’s society.”

In a message to the White House and Congress, FAPA said: “The procedures followed by the Ma government to push the [cross-strait] service trade agreement through were undemocratic and not transparent. The autonomy of the legislature and the legislative process negotiated by the political parties should be respected as befits Taiwan’s democracy.”

US publications have also commented on the trade pact protests and the government’s reaction.

“The more lasting damage may be across the [Taiwan] Strait, where Chinese authorities are surely looking at this mess and smirking smugly,” Fortune Magazine said.

A Georgetown University blog urged US policymakers to take “seriously” claims that the pact will raise China’s influence over Taipei.

“The US must adopt and strictly enforce a zero-tolerance policy toward Chinese intervention in Taiwan,” the blog said. “We can’t afford to let Taiwan become the next Crimea. China must be appraised that messing with Taiwan equates to messing with America.”

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