The US has issued a low-key approval of the talks between representatives of Taiwan and China in Nanjing on Tuesday.
Asked if the US welcomed “these types of dialogues in the future between Taiwan and China,” US Department of State spokesperson Jennifer Psaki replied: “We do.”
“We welcome the steps both sides of the Taiwan Strait have taken to reduce tensions and improve relations between Beijing and Taipei,” Psaki said.
“We encourage authorities in Beijing and Taipei to continue their constructive dialogue, which has led to significant improvement in the cross-strait relationship. So, we certainly welcome the resumption,” she added.
Psaki was asked if Taiwan or China had contacted the US before Tuesday’s meeting.
She said she would have to check on that and find out if there had been any prior discussions.
Later, a Washington source with close ties to the administration of US President Barack Obama told the Taipei Times that there had been discussions with Taipei before the meeting and that the US expected to receive a full background briefing on the outcome.
Psaki did not mention the meeting when she opened her regular Department of State press briefing on Tuesday and the question about the meeting was not asked until near the end of the session.
If she had not been specifically asked, the meeting would likely not have been mentioned.
“We are not making a big deal of this,” the Washington source said.
The New York Times reported that while few breakthroughs were expected from the meeting, “the symbolism of the talks was considered noteworthy.”
The newspaper quoted Jonathan Sullivan, a China specialist at the University of Nottingham in England, as saying that Beijing knew that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) “is pro-China.”
Sullivan said that because China did not know what the next president of Taiwan would be like, Beijing may want “to try and institutionalize some contact mechanism and lock in future political leaders in Taiwan.”
Time magazine said on its Web site that the Nanjing meeting had “once seemed impossible.”
“Though the talks barely made headlines on the Chinese mainland, they are likely to cause a stir in Taiwan, which remains deeply split on the issue,” it said. “President Ma’s second term is half over and there is a growing sense that, when it comes to cross-strait ties, the winds may yet turn.”
Following the talks, Reuters reported that they marked “a big step towards expanding cross-strait dialogue beyond economic and trade issues.”
On Monday, the Washington-based Freedom House urged the Chinese government to issue visas to two Taiwanese reporters denied entry to China and thus preventing them from covering the Nanjing meeting.
“The Chinese government’s refusal to grant access to these journalists reflects two important trends — the Communist Party’s expansion of its tactics for influencing media from Hong Kong to Taiwan, and the government’s use of visa denials as a way to punish overseas news outlets for critical coverage,” Freedom House senior research analyst Sarah Cook said.