Taiwan wants to maintain “our sovereignty and our dignity and our country,” Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office chief representative in Washington King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) said on Friday as he spoke to a packed audience at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.
Sources later told the Taipei Times that highly placed diplomats within the embassy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) “strongly objected” to King’s appearance.
The sources said the Beijing embassy complained to the university leadership and attempted to have the event canceled.
When the complaints did not work, the embassy sent staff members to monitor King’s speech and his answers to questions, which mainly came from Taiwanese and Chinese students, the people said.
At one point, when King mentioned the so-called “1992 consensus,” someone in the audience laughed and a source told the Taipei Times that the person responsible was from the Beijing embassy.
The source said that an embassy representative appeared to be angry when King mentioned Taiwanese “sovereignty” and referred to Taiwan as a “country.”
According to the sources, the Chinese embassy argued that giving King a university platform from which to speak made Taiwan appear to be a separate country and not part of China.
As part of an announcement for the event, the university described King as “Ambassador for the ROC (Taiwan).”
Taiwan does not want to “deliberately irritate” China, King said in one answer. However, King stressed that China still had many missiles aimed at Taiwan and the nation needed US support to provide defensive military equipment.
“Taiwanese want to maintain a peaceful relationship with the PRC,” he said.
King said that US weapons systems enabled the nation to be comfortable and to maintain the “status quo.” He said the proposed US rebalancing toward Asia was important and that Taipei hoped to play a constructive role and contribute a lot.
“We think the US’ presence in Asia is important for peace and stability in the region,” he said.
He said Taiwan would do its best to play a role in the US rebalancing and would try to help the US develop stronger relations with Beijing.
King said that before Taipei could touch on “strong, sensitive, political issues” in talks with Beijing, it would need to have full support from the people.
“Some people think that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration are leaning toward China too much,” King said, adding that some people had even accused Ma of “selling out” Taiwan.
However, King insisted there was no evidence that such a thing had ever happened.
“Taiwan is a very good showcase for Chinese democracy,” he said.
During his 30-minute talk titled “Prospects for US-Taiwan Relations,” King said the US-Taiwan partnership must not be taken for granted.
He said Ma had paid great attention to reducing tensions with China and that the Taiwan Strait — once a major military demarcation — was today “one of the most peaceful and prosperous waterways.”
King said there were five areas Taiwan and the US needed to work harder on. They needed to strengthen political ties; to confront the “growing threat” of climate change; to increase economic cooperation; to enhance the Taiwan-US security partnership; and to reduce tensions in the East China Sea.
“We will work with our neighbors and friends in the US to further secure peace and prosperity,” King said.
“My country greatly values the historical relationship with the US. We have stood together in good times and bad. We continue to be grateful for US support on diplomatic, economic, political and military fronts,” he said, adding: “Today, there is no daylight between Washington and Taipei. Our relationship is as strong as ever.”
King said that Taiwan stood as a “beacon of liberty” whose light was “shining across the Strait to the people in China who do not have the right to freely choose their political leaders.”