Fri, Dec 05, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Potential Pentagon leader well-versed on Taiwan-US ties

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter, in WASHINGTON

Physicist and military technocrat Ashton Carter — expected to be the US’ next secretary of defense — is well-versed in US policies on Taiwan.

He played a lead role in a delegation that visited Taipei early in the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and produced a report on “strategic security issues” across the Taiwan Strait.

“Our delegation heard clearly in Taipei that sound ties with Washington are central to Taiwan being confident enough to proceed boldly with [China],” the report said.

Then-RAND Corp researcher Evan Medeiros, who is now the top White House official on Asia policy, also joined the trip.

The report produced by this delegation repeatedly asserted that reduced tensions across the Taiwan Strait were very important for good US-China relations.

According to US press reports and leaks from the White House, US President Barack Obama is expected to nominate Carter for the top Pentagon job soon.

Carter would replace former US senator Chuck Hagel, who has reportedly been forced out. The New York Times said that Hagel was seen as “too passive” amid rising threats from overseas.

Carter, 60, is a former Harvard University professor and expert on Pentagon budgets and procurement. He has served as deputy defense secretary and is not expected to make significant changes to US policy.

“All Taiwan government interlocutors stated unequivocally that they wished to see US weapons sales notifications go to the US Congress,” the report from the delegation that visited Taiwan said. “They argued that Taiwan needed to be a ‘hard Republic of China,’ difficult for [China] to coerce, in order for Taiwan to move forward with the mainland from a position of confidence and strength.”

It added that a “major and permanent reduction in cross-strait tension strongly serves US interests” and US cooperation with China could be “substantially enhanced” if Taiwan receded as a bilateral issue.

It said the military hedging that occurs between the US and China in part because of cross-strait friction adds a “gray cloud of mutual strategic suspicion.”

The delegation, which also visited Beijing, said that Chinese officials and academics held a strong view that a breakthrough in cross-strait relations would “deeply affect US-China relations in a positive way.”

It said that if the improvement in cross-strait relations was slowed, “[The US’] ability to cooperate with China on a range of critical issues will be degraded.”

The report added that a comprehensive agreement under the [so-called] “1992 consensus” and the concept of the “three noes” — “no unification, no independence and no force” — was achievable.

While it acknowledged that such a deal would take time, it said: “the sooner the better.”

The report said that the US must foster an environment in which a deal could be reached.

“Our delegation sees, buttressed by prospects of increasing cross-strait stability, real opportunity for more robust military-to-military ties between US armed forces and the People’s Liberation Army, which would contribute to improved Sino-American relations,” it said.

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