Visit related to security: AIT chairman

DEFENSIVE::American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt would not reveal details of his visit to Taiwan, other than that ‘security issues’ were involved

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Feb 02, 2013 - Page 3

American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt said yesterday that the main purpose of his visit was related to security issues and on developing security relations between the US and Taiwan, but he kept mum on details of his discussions with government officials and party leaders.

In addition to bringing messages from the White House on the occasion of the start of US President Barack Obama’s second term, his trip to Taipei this week mainly focused on security issues, Burghardt said at a press round-table event in Taipei.

“We are working very closely with Taiwan on policy-level talks. We look at Taiwan’s defense needs: What it needs to have a strong deterrent capability, both in high-tech and low-tech solutions, involving a lot of talks here, in Washington and Hualalai [Hawaii],” he said.

During his five day visit, Burghardt met with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and senior officials at the defense, security, and foreign affairs ministries, as well as Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), former vice president Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) and Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Lin Join-sane (林中森).

Burghardt said he also visited a Patriot missile site and the Taipei Regional Control Center, which “symbolized my reasons for being here.”

Despite media queries, Burghardt declined to be drawn into talking about specific weapon systems, such as F16-C/Ds and a new generation of submarines, and he instead addressed some “basic goals” to beef up Taiwan’s deterrent capability.

The goal is to make anyone with the intent to coerce Taiwan, to attack Taiwan, or to do anything of a coercive nature against Taiwan realize that it would be tough, difficult, very costly and dangerous to resort to the use of force, Burghardt said.

The US has invited China to participate in a Rim of the Pacific military exercise in 2014.

On a question of the possibility of Taiwan being invited to join the Rim of the Pacific exercises, Burghardt said that Taiwan has observed the drills.

He said that Taiwan may have already participated in such military exercises, but that the news was just not made public. China’s participation in military drills hosted by the US was just “a small part” on the nature of humanitarian and relief exercises.

China’s participation was “a corner of exercise,” he said.

Separately, at a telephone press conference held in Tokyo early yesterday morning, Admiral Samuel Locklear III, commander of the US Pacific Command, said that the US will pursue a “lasting relationship” with China, including a military-to-military relationship.

“Our two countries have strong stakes in regional peace and stability, and interests in building our bilateral relationship. We hope to look past those areas where we differ and focus our relations on our converging interests, such as counterpiracy, counterterrorism … humanitarian assistances and relief response,” Locklear said.

Locklear added that the US’ rebalancing strategy toward Asia is important to the region, because “no single government mechanism” in the region is able to manage the relationships and provide the framework for conflict resolution.

The US’ rebalancing to Asia is “a foundation for many opportunities for cooperation the US has with our allies, partnerships and friends in the Asia Pacific.”

In response to a media query on whether the US supports Ma’s East China Sea Peace Initiative, Locklear said: “It is not really my position to support or not support what President Ma and the people of Taiwan choose to do, so I will defer that question to the people of Taiwan.”