Romney video flap spreads to opinions on Taiwan relations

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Fri, Sep 21, 2012 - Page 3

Unguarded comments about Taiwan have entered the flap surrounding Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s controversial remarks on low-income Americans and the dangers of a Palestinian state.

The Romney quotes — largely unreported by the US media — seem to reflect a pessimistic view of Taiwan’s future, with little strategic thought or planning.

Answering a question about the possibility of an independent Palestinian State, Romney said: “You hope for some degree of stability, but you recognize that this is going to remain an unsolved problem.”

“We live with that in China and Taiwan,” Romney continued. “All right, we have a potentially volatile situation, but we sort of live with it. And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it. We don’t go to war to try and resolve it imminently.”

The remarks were made at a private off-the-record fundraising dinner in Florida nearly four months ago.

Someone at the dinner secretly videotaped Romney and the damaging tape was released this week.

The US press first concentrated on the Republican candidate’s comments that Palestinians “have no interest” in peace with Israel.

However, yesterday newspaper front pages were dominated by Romney’s further remarks on the videotape that nearly half of Americans receive government benefits and do not pay federal income taxes.

He said that he “doesn’t worry about those people” and that they see themselves as victims.

The incident could severely damage the Romney campaign and according to the New York Times has given the Democrats new ammunition to claim he is out of touch with the needs and values of the middle class.

Polls are already reflecting a drop in support for the Republican candidate.

In the midst of this political furor, Romney’s words about Taiwan were overlooked. However, by Wednesday night in Washington, Capitol Hill was beginning to take notice. Republican sources close to the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee said they were “disappointed” that Romney had no strategy for dealing with Taiwan’s future, but was simply waiting for something to happen.

“We would have expected Romney to have a more proactive and forward-leaning approach,” Formosa Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) official Coen Blaauw said. “The preservation of Taiwan’s democracy and right to self-determination is essential to US geostrategic interests.”

“It’s not enough to kick the ball down the field and hope that someday the problem will resolve itself,” Blaauw said. “Previous statements from his campaign signaled a preference for taking a stronger stance against China in general and against military aggression in particular.”

The Republican Party platform — largely written by Romney advisers — opposes any unilateral steps by either side to alter the “status quo” in the Taiwan Strait on the principle that all issues regarding the island’s future must be resolved peacefully, through dialogue and be agreeable to the people of Taiwan.