Sun, Oct 30, 2016 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Taiwan-US ties ‘never been better,’ US diplomat says

By Nadia Tsao  /  Staff reporter in Washington

US Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asia Susan Thornton is pictured in Washington on Tuesday.

Photo: Nadia Tsao, Taipei Times

A top US diplomat said that “US-Taiwan relations have never been better.”

In an interview with the Taipei Times, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asia Susan Thornton said that from the US’ perspective, “we really have a good foundation to carry through the end of this administration and the transition to the new administration in the US.”

Thornton assumed the post in February. She joined the US Department of State in 1991 and has served in Taipei and China’s Beijing and Chengdu.

Thornton emphasized that Taiwan and the US are continuing all kinds of robust cooperation in many areas and that close Taiwan-US ties are extremely popular in the US.

Although there has been rhetoric urging a review of the relationship during the US election season, she said that everything that the US does with Taiwan enjoys bipartisan support and “Taiwan would never be abandoned.”

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) is scheduled to visit China to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) on Tuesday, and discussions of a peace accord might be on their agenda, according to Taiwanese media reports.

“We really do not have a position on that,” Thornton said, adding that the US had no particular information about a peace accord.

She indicated what the US really wanted to see is the continuity of cross-strait peace and stability and communication taking place that is aimed at sustaining a healthy relationship that can get things done.

Thornton said she understood there might be some continuation of working-level contact between the authorities on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

The US wants to be sure there is “quality communication” between Taipei and Beijing, as the authorities have to be “responsible [for] resolving issues and problems,” she said.

Thornton said there is a lack of trust on both sides in this regard, and that the US has been encouraging creativity, flexibility and restraint.

She said she hoped both sides of the Taiwan Strait could come up with forward-looking and positive agendas to work toward more established channels of communication.

Thornton said they had not nailed down the timing of a meeting between US Secretary of State John Kerry and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), whom President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) appointed her special envoy at the APEC summit, but there was no reason not to follow precedent and arrange a meeting.

The APEC leaders’ summit is scheduled to take place from Nov. 17 through Nov. 19.

She indicated that she sat in on the last meeting with the Taiwanese delegation and it was a good chance to review how Taiwan and the US could work together to help Taiwan pursue its goals in a regional and economic context.

Thornton said that Taiwan’s international participation is something the US takes seriously.

She reiterated that the US is still focused on Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Authority, Interpol and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and was looking to what Washington could do in those areas.

Apart from these organizations, she said “we always look to Taiwan’s comparative advantages” to showcase Taiwan’s talents to the international community.

She said Taiwan is “a model global citizen” which has a lot to contribute to the world.

Tsai has placed a new focus on prioritizing the indigenous defense industry, targeting the domestic production of diesel submarines and jet trainers.

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