Former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) chairman Richard Bush yesterday said in Taipei that he would like to talk with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to clarify its concerns about alleged US intervention in Taiwan’s elections.
“It has never being my intention to tell Taiwan voters what to do. Every time I have a chance to clarify that, I would be happy to do it,” Bush said.
Bush made the remarks when asked to comment on the DPP’s proposal on Monday that NT$20 million (US$658,000) of the budget for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of North American Affairs next year should be frozen.
The DPP said a significant increase in the department’s budget for next year compared to this year’s — NT$58.44 million — appaered to be intended to cover the cost of inviting US academics and US officials to visit Taiwan to intervene in the 2016 presidential election.
The party said such intervention has happened in previous elections, citing visits by Bush and former AIT director Douglas Paal as examples.
“It would be a really interesting project for political scientists to study whether anything I said or Paal said had any impact whatsoever on Taiwan elections,” Bush said, adding that he would like to get a better understanding of what specific incident the DPP was talking about.
A Central News Agency report on Sept. 12 cited Bush telling a conference on “Relations across the Taiwan Strait” at the Brookings Institution in Washington that he was confident that the US would express its views some time or in some way on how US interests “will be affected by Taiwan’s elections.”
Bush said that the US “has not been quiet” on Taiwan’s past presidential elections and would express its views on the 2016 presidential election, the agency reported.
Asked yesterday to elaborate on this point, Bush said he did not know what the US government would do, but he thought that “we [the US] are in a dilemma.”
“On the one hand, we really believe that it is Taiwan’s voters that should choose who their new leaders are, but [on the other hand] the policies of the new [Taiwan] government, whatever the new policies are, can have an impact on the US interests,” the former diplomat said.
“That is a reality,” Bush said. “If Taiwan voters want to take that into account, that’s fine.”
Bush is visiting Taipei to attend a symposium hosted by Brookings, the Taipei Forum Foundation and the Association of Foreign Relations titled “Taiwan’s Domestic and External Policy Environment in 2015.”
He is a senior fellow at Brookings and director of its Center for East Asia Policy Studies.
Speaking at a symposium panel about the prospects for cross-strait relations next year, Bush said he hoped that Beijing would allow Taiwan to have more international space.
“I am not particularly optimistic here, because I know what has happened and what has not happened over the past six years,” he said, adding that how Beijing handles Taiwan’s international space can help it or ruin it in winning the hearts of the Taiwanese.
“The more restrictive Beijing is, the more it would hurt,” he said.
To resolve Taiwan’s dilemma about its economic policies and the economic dimension of cross-strait relations, including the degree and direction of liberalization, and potential political pressure from Beijing over its economic liberalization with its trading partners, “the government must have public support,” he said.
“That is the lesson of this spring,” he said, referring to the student-led Sunflower movement, whose protests were prompted by the government’s handling of the controversial cross-strait service trade agreement.
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