Opinions differ on US-China statement

GLASS HALF FULL::Officials sought to convince the public that their lobbying against the inclusion of the term ‘core interests’ in the US-China joint statement had won the day

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

Sat, Jan 22, 2011 - Page 3

Officials and academics yesterday offered different interpretations of the differences between the recent US-China joint statement and the one signed in 2009 and whether the US supported China’s claim to sovereignty over Taiwan.

The 2009 joint statement said: “The two sides agreed that respecting each other’s core interests is extremely important to ensure steady progress in US-China relations.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) yesterday was happy that the latest joint statement failed to mention China’s “core interests.”

“You can see that the ‘core interests’ mentioned last time was neither included in the joint statement this time, nor was it mentioned in the joint press conference, meaning the US disagrees with mainland China in this regard,” Yang said.

Yang said that the ministry lobbied against the mention of “core interests” in the summit between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) during a recent series of briefings by US officials prior to the Obama-Hu meeting.

Obama was criticized by pro-Taiwan academics for kowtowing to China in his visit to Beijing in 2009, mainly because of that joint statement.

Since then, the 2009 joint statement has been used by Chinese officials on several occasions as proof of US support for its claim to sovereignty over Taiwan.

The Democratic Progressive Party has urged the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government to take issue with the US over the matter, while the government accepted the clarification later made by American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Raymond Burghardt that the US government only accepted Beijing’s sovereignty over Tibet and Xinjiang, not Taiwan.

Yang said that the incorporation in the latest joint statement of the wording: “The two sides reaffirmed respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” was not a reference to Taiwan, as “it was in the second paragraph, not the sixth where the Taiwan issue was addressed.”

Yang said the KMT government believed the US stance on Taiwan’s sovereignty remained unchanged as “every time when the US mentions the ‘one China’ policy, it refers to the US’ one ‘China policy’ or ‘its one China policy,’ which is different to China’s ‘one China’ principle.”

A day after meeting with Obama at a luncheon with senior US officials and business leaders, Hu said on Thursday that “Taiwan and Tibet concern China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and represent China’s core interests,” and expressed the hope that the US would honor its commitment to maintain the hard-earned relationships.

That the term “core interest” -appeared in Hu’s speech and not in the joint statement meant that it was an issue on which China and the US were divided, an anonymous foreign ministry official said yesterday.

“It would have been included in the joint statement if the US agreed,” the official said.

However, Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), an associate professor of politics at Soochow University, disagreed.

The absence of the term “core interests” in the latest statement did not mean that the US had changed its position on China’s core interests, because the recent joint statement clearly stated that “the Presidents further reaffirmed their commitment to the November 2009 US-China Joint Statement,” Lo said.

“Once the 2009 joint statement was reiterated, there was accordingly no need to mention ‘core interests’ again. More importantly, since the 2009 joint statement was made the US has not refuted the claim by China that it considered Taiwan a core interest,“ Lo said.

Since November 2009, China has expanded the content of its “core interests,” not defined in the 2009 joint statement, by declaring the South China Sea, the Yellow Sea and Taiwan as its core interests on a par with Tibet and Xinjiang on various occasions, Lo said.

“What China wanted from the US was a promise to respect its ‘core interests.’ After getting that endorsement, China has its own interpretation of what ‘core interests’ means. This is China’s core interest ploy, and it’s a little concerning that the US has fallen into the trap,” Lo said.

Alex Huang (黃介正), an assistant professor at Tamkang University’s Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies, held a different view, saying that the Taiwan issue was addressed in a “nicer” way than in the 2009 statement.

“It was more modest and we can feel the US government has taken note of our concerns since the last joint statement. The US government is sensitive to Taiwan’s concerns,” he said.

Beijing would surely have wanted the inclusion of “core interests” in the joint statement again, but the US clearly did not accept that demand, Huang said.