Wed, Mar 09, 2016 - Page 3 News List

President Ma could meet with officials on US transit stops

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

The US Department of State is leaving open the possibility that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) might consult with US government officials when he transits through Houston and Los Angeles on a visit to Central America later this month.

“We want to obviously remain in dialogue with Taiwan — it’s a strong partner,” deputy spokesman Mark Toner said on Monday. “I don’t have anything to announce in terms of who he might speak with in the US government.”

“I just don’t have that information in front of me, and while I don’t have anything to announce, I also can’t say that we won’t be speaking to the president when he transits,” Toner said at one of his occasional special briefing sessions for foreign media at the Foreign Press Center in Washington.

He refused to enlarge on his remarks and sources at the department involved in Taiwan relations said they did not know who might speak with Ma, although they did not deny that some dialogue is a possibility.

Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) on Monday said in Taipei that Ma would meet with expatriates and members of US Congress when his airplane refuels in Houston en route to Guatemala and Belize.

Lin said that Ma would again meet with expatriates and members of Congress during a stop in Los Angeles on his way home.

Toner was also asked if there were any issues the US wanted to talk about with Ma, whether over the telephone or in person, such as the US’ unhappiness with his trip to Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) in the South China Sea.

“We abide by the ‘one China’ policy. That remains unchanged, obviously, based on the three joint communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act,” Toner said. “We have a deep and abiding interest in cross-strait stability and we encourage both sides to exercise flexibility and restraint.”

“I think we encourage authorities in both Beijing and Taiwan — or Taipei rather, excuse me — to continue their constructive dialogue on a basis of dignity, of respect, in order to establish a basis for continued peace and stability in the cross-strait region,” he said.

Toner acknowledged the US was not pleased about Ma’s visit to Itu Aba, saying the Department of State had expressed its concern at the time “about those actions.”

In late January, Ma made a one-day visit to Itu Aba to offer Lunar New Year wishes to Coast Guard Administration personnel and academics stationed there.

The visit was made amid growing tensions with China over ownership of islands, rocks and atolls in the South China Sea and the US Department of State said at the time that it was “extremely unhelpful.”

American Institute in Taiwan officials said they were “disappointed” and that the trip did not contribute to the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea.

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