The US Department of State on Tuesday joined a controversy surrounding remarks made by former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman Richard Bush about Taiwan’s presidential elections.
“Mr Bush does not speak for the US government and his comments were made in a personal capacity,” a Department of State spokesperson said.
Bush, director of the Center for East Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, last week told a Washington conference that the US government “at some time and in some way will express itself on the implications of the 2016 election for US interests.”
“This is something we do. We feel there is a need for us to express our views on how our interests will be affected by Taiwan’s elections,” he said.
Bush’s remarks were widely interpreted as meaning that Washington would try to interfere in the next presidential election and put its thumb on the scales in favor of the party whose policies it favors most.
However, the Department of State said on Tuesday: “We strongly support Taiwan’s democratic system and the will of the people of Taiwan to make their own choice in their upcoming elections.”
“We support free, fair and open elections. The United States has a longstanding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and urges both sides to avoid any provocative actions,” it said, adding: “We support continued improvement in cross-strait relations that will allow for increased contacts and a further reduction in tensions.”
Earlier the Taipei office of the AIT distanced itself from Bush’s remarks.
Bush was not the first former AIT official to suggest the US might try to play a role in Taiwan’s elections.
Before the previous presidential election, Carnegie Endowment vice president for studies Douglas Paal, a former director of the AIT, wrote that China had privately expressed hope for intervention by the administration of US President Barack Obama to “tilt the political playing field” in favor of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government and against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Paal said that China had counted on former US president George W. Bush’s administration to rein in former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
“But after Ma was elected, Beijing increasingly indicated it wanted the United States to back off. Once again the tide has turned and Beijing is looking to Washington for help to manage what it ordinarily insists are its internal affairs with Taiwan,” Paal said.
“This in turn will create a dilemma for Washington: How to appear impartial in Taiwan’s domestic elections and yet convey its preference for a continuation of Ma Ying-jeou’s management of cross-strait relations. Look for the Obama administration officials to state that they are impartial about the voting and will welcome whatever is the result of the democratic elections in Taiwan,” he said.
“But they are likely also to state that the United States hopes for a continuation of the reduction in tensions and would not welcome provocations from either side of the [Taiwan] Strait,” Paal said.
Addressing the convention last week, Richard Bush said that in September 2011, the Obama administration had “conveyed its views through the Financial Times.”
The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) said of this incident that the Obama administration had “apparently gotten into the business of interfering in other countries’ democratic elections.”
After DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) visited Washington in September 2011, the Financial Times reported that a senior US official told the newspaper that Tsai “had sparked concerns about stability in the Taiwan Strait, which is critically important to the US.”
“She left us with distinct doubts about whether she is both willing and able to continue the stability in cross-strait relations the region has enjoyed in recent years,” the senior official was reported as saying.
The institute said it was a “blatant effort” to undermine Tsai’s candidacy and influence the Taiwanese elections.
Following that incident, the Department of State said: “The official mentioned in the [Financial Times] article is totally unknown to us and certainly does not speak for the Obama administration. The administration does not take sides in Taiwan’s (or any country’s) election.”
Also, former US assistant secretary of state for East Asia Kurt Campbell told the US Congress: “We do not believe any one party or leader on Taiwan has a monopoly on effective management of the relationship, and we do not take sides in the elections.”
“We will work closely with whatever leadership emerges from Taiwan’s free and fair elections to build on our enduring commitment to Taiwan’s people, its prosperity and peace,” he said.
FAMILY FEUD: Weng Jen-hsien, who was convicted of killing six people in 2016, was the second prisoner to be executed since President Tsai Ing-wen took office A death row inmate was executed on Wednesday, less than a year after he was convicted of killing six people by setting fire to his home. Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥) said that he signed the order and the death sentence was carried out on Wednesday afternoon in New Taipei City. The Supreme Court on July 10 last year sentenced 53-year-old Weng Jen-hsien (翁仁賢) to death after he was convicted of killing his parents, niece, nephew and nephew’s wife and his parents’ caregivers. Weng set fire to his home in Taoyuan’s Longtan District (龍潭) on Feb. 7, 2016, after a family feud
At a campground in Nantou County, a team of women are using ropes to shimmy up a towering seven-story tall Chinaberry tree, fighting their fear of heights and reconnecting with nature. Tree climbing remains somewhat niche in Taiwan, but a growing number of women are embracing the challenge thanks to the island’s first international certified female climber arborist. Sylvia Hsu (許芢涵), 26, said she was inspired to set up her own women-only tree climbing classes after seeing the popularity of similar gatherings in Europe. “A women-only camp is a more relaxed environment,” she said. “I was hooked on trees after my first climb...
Police in Kaohsiung are investigating a possible murder after a woman’s body was found in a plastic container on Thursday. The bucket was found by a person operating an excavator on a construction site at a private lot next to the Ciaotou Sugar Refinery Station (橋頭糖廠站) on the Kaohsiung Mass Rapid Transit system. Police investigator Chen Jen-cheng (陳仁正) yesterday said police had reviewed missing person reports and have narrowed the identity of the victim down to about 20 possible people. Physical evidence suggested she might have been a Fongshan District (鳳山) woman surnamed Lin (林), who was about 60 years old when she
IN PRINCIPLE: The Central Epidemic Command Center began yesterday to ban visits to hospitalized patients, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced 10 new COVID-19 cases — eight imported and two locally transmitted — bringing the nation’s tally of confirmed cases to 339. The imported cases involved six men and two women, all Taiwanese, who had traveled to Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Indonesia, countries in Latin America, the UK or the US before arriving back in Taiwan between March 6 and Tuesday, center data showed. Among them, patient No. 338 was part of a tour group that traveled to Austria and the Czech Republic, and has resulted in an infection cluster of five cases,