The US does not take sides and does not “take actions that would imply that we are taking sides” in Taiwan’s elections, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel said on Thursday.
“We respect the people of Taiwan and we respect their ability to select their own leaders,” he said.
Russel was answering questions following a Washington news briefing on US Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent visit to Beijing and Seoul.
He had been asked if the US would try to persuade Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to accept or acknowledge the existence of the so-called “1992 consensus” when she visits Washington next month.
The “1992 consensus,” a term former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su Chi (蘇起) admitted making up in 2000, refers to a tacit understanding between the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese government that both sides acknowledge there is “one China,” with each side having their own interpretation of what “China” means.
Russel said that he would be happy to meet with Tsai and talk about “a range of issues.”
He said he would be equally happy to meet with candidates from the KMT should they choose to visit.
“There is nothing political implied in the fact that Tsai might visit the US and be received by those of us who handle foreign policy,” Russel said.
“The reason we would want to talk to her is because the US has an important long-standing unofficial relationship with Taiwan, and because the US has a huge and long-standing interest in peaceful and stable cross-strait relations,” he said.
Russel said the US valued the steps Taiwan and China have taken to reduce tensions and to improve cross-strait relations on the basis of dignity and respect.
“The substance of where cross-strait relations go and the scope of the interactions between Taiwan and the mainland, those policy issues, are for the people of Taiwan to decide what position they want to take,” he said.
Russel said it was up to the candidates to explain their policies to voters — “and we want to hear from the candidates what their policy is, what their strategy is.”
He insisted that this was not taking sides, but was a “legitimate discussion” about areas where the US had interests and views.
“Given the friendly unofficial relations, the US has an appropriate expectation that a major political candidate would want to talk through and share with us his or her thinking, his or her strategy for managing that important relationship — how they manage it, what they view as the desirable path forward is what we want to hear.”
Russel said that, as the US discusses cross-strait stability with Taiwan’s political parties, it would also be talking to China and “encouraging the leadership in Beijing to exercise patience and to show flexibility and restraint in dealing with the leadership in Taiwan.”
He said that would be in the interests of Taiwan, the region and of the US.
“So, we look forward to Chairwoman Tsai’s visit and look forward to hearing what it is that she has to say,” Russel said.