US-Taiwan ties ‘in a very good place’

‘ROBUST GOOD HEALTH’::A senior US official said the relationship between the two countries has never been better, but they must work on trade pacts and defense

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Sat, Oct 05, 2013 - Page 4

A senior US Department of State official has delivered a major speech to boost and praise Washington’s “robust relationship” with Taiwan.

The speech was made to answer recent charges and criticisms that the relationship was not going well and that the US had failed to provide Taiwan with the weapons systems it needs.

Acknowledging that Washington is having its own problems right now with the Congressional shutdown of the US government, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kin Moy said that in the circumstances both the Department of State and the White House believed it was important “to make a statement about our relationship with Taiwan.”

In a keynote speech to a Carnegie Endowment conference on “Cross-strait developments in 2013,” Moy said the US’ friendship with Taiwan was “in a very good place.”

He said his remarks were in contrast with “misconceptions” about the relationship.

“A lot of people on the outside don’t realize how much we have done,” Moy said. “We want to dispel the notion that we are not in a positive area with Taiwan — in fact I think it is just the opposite — and I am very optimistic about the relationship.”

Former director of the American Institute in Taiwan Douglas Paal said that Moy “sits in the cockpit” of US policymaking and that he spoke with authority for the US government.

Moy said the relationship with Taiwan encompassed business, culture, education, environmental protection and security ties.

“Maintaining and deepening our unofficial relationship with Taiwan is an important part of our engagement in Asia, a region of great and growing importance to the US,” he said. “A critical part of our strategy is building a comprehensive and durable mutually beneficial relationship between the US and Taiwan.”

He said the relationship was founded on shared values and a commitment to freedom and democracy.

“Our engagement with Taiwan has supported the economic and political success story that Taiwan is today,” he said.

Taiwan, he said, was recognized around the world as a model for economic development and democratic reform.

“Our relationship is multifaceted and overwhelmingly in the US’ national interest,” he said.

“Taiwan remains a close partner with whom we engage in a full range of substantive interactions, including trade negotiations, scientific and technical cooperation, environmental protection, academic and cultural exchanges, delegation visits and other forms of cooperation,” he said. “This relationship is in robust good health.”

He said there was still work to be done on trade agreements and that Taiwan would benefit by further liberalizing and opening its markets.

At the same time he stressed that it was important to acknowledge Taiwan’s status as a positive and responsible contributor to the international community.

Washington fully supports Taiwan’s membership in international organizations where statehood is not a requirement, he said, and it has encouraged Taiwan’s meaningful participation in organizations where membership is not possible.

“We do not see any inconsistency between developing a partnership with China and maintaining a strong unofficial relationship with Taiwan,” Moy said.

“Indeed, this is an essential part of the rebalance to Asia. It is very much in our interests to see an improvement in cross-strait relations,” he said.

“We commend the progress that has been achieved in recent years and we recommend both sides to continue. Cross-strait stability is essential to the US goal of promoting peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. We support the peaceful resolution of differences in a manner acceptable to people on both sides of the Strait,” he said.

Moy said the US opposed any efforts to resolve differences through intimidation.

“It is our judgement that our strong security relationship with Taiwan, and our support of Taiwan’s defensive capabilities, provide the security and confidence necessary for improvements in cross-strait relations,” Moy said.

He added that the US offered the defense equipment necessary for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability, consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act and the US’ “one China” policy.

The Obama administration had notified the US Congress of its intent to sell new defense articles and services worth more than US$12 billion to Taiwan, Moy said.

Such sales support both the US’ commitments to Taiwan and its interest in maintaining stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the Asia-Pacific region, he added.

“We support Taiwan’s efforts to develop innovative and asymmetric capabilities to deter coercion or intimidation,” Moy said.

Moy also said that the US encouraged Taiwan to increase its defense budget to a level “commensurate with the security challenges it confronts.”

He said the US did not view Taiwan only through the prism of cross-strait relations.

“We also look to Taiwan as a partner as we work towards transnational global issues such as environmental protection, disaster relief, developmental assistance and combating human trafficking,” Moy said. “Taiwan remains one of the great stories of democracy and freedom of expression.”

“The friendship between the people of the US and the people of Taiwan is longstanding and deep, and we look forward to continuing substantive engagement with Taiwan,” he said. “We look forward to welcoming friends from Taiwan to every corner of our US.”