INTERVIEW: AIT director Moy looks forward to working with Tsai

Saying that US-Taiwan relations are probably as strong as they have ever been, in a joint interview with the ‘Taipei Times’ and its sister newspaper the ‘Liberty Times,’ American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Kin Moy on Friday expressed confidence about the prospect of forging strong ties with president-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s administration, while adding that the US encourages Taipei and Beijing to maintain dialogues

Mon, Jan 25, 2016 - Page 3

Question: As you know, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has won the election. We have noticed that to stabilize the regional situation, the US has sent envoys to Taipei and Beijing. Will the US take further steps to stabilize the regional situation?

Kin Moy: As you may have read from the announcements of these visits, we often do sent people. In this case, a senior statesman [former US deputy secretary of state Bill Burns] to Taiwan, but also a deputy secretary of state [US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken] to Beijing. These are actually routine kind of visits that we conduct in order to further communicate with the respective capitals.

I think our policy is very clear and you can probably recite it as well as I can. We have a ‘one China’ policy that is set forth in the Three Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act.

We have long encouraged dialogues between Beijing and Taipei. We believe that in the last few years, there has been increasing engagement between the two sides. I think we feel very comfortable with the election and the way that relationship has been going. To answer your question, I think we are in a good place and one should not [view] these visits as being extraordinary.

I am glad that ambassador Burns came because he was able to express the White House’s perspective, [extend] our own sort of congratulations, and hope for solid relations. That said, I think what ambassador Burns was also able to do was indicate how we hoped to forge stronger relations with Madam Tsai and her administration.

Relatively, it was a fair campaign. Of course campaigns are campaigns, and there are going to be a lot of discussions and a lot of controversial issues, but I thought it was conducted in a manner that we will not find unusual in the US. We are just so impressed with how mature Taiwan’s democracy is. We could not be more impressed with the people and their engagement as well.

Question: Tsai has been advocating the maintenance of the ‘status quo’ across the Taiwan Strait. However, Beijing would continue to exert pressure on her before May 20 and threaten that if she does not accept the so-called “1992 consensus,” there would be consequences. On the other hand, the US regards itself as a rule-setter in the Asia-Pacific region and also demands that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait maintain the ‘status quo.’ How does the US define the ‘status quo’ and what are the rules?

[Editor’s note: The “1992 consensus” refers to a supposed understanding reached during the cross-strait talks in 1992 that both Taiwan and China acknowledge that there is “one China,” with each side having its own interpretation of what that means.

Former Mainland Affairs Council chairman Su admitted he made up the term “1992 consensus” in 2000, before the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) handed power to the Democratic Progressive Party].

Moy: We do not have a view on the “1992 consensus,” nor do we have a dentition that others should be provided. What we do feel is that the “1992 consensus” has provided a kind of foundation, or a kind of basis, for a discussion that has been going on for the last few years, a basis for a kind of engagement that we feel has improved the environment not just across the [Taiwan] Strait, but in the region.

If you ask people in Washington about the reasons for Asia’s development and ability to thrive over the last few years, many of them would say one of the principal reasons is that there has been a lowering of tension between Taiwan and the PRC [People’s Republic of China]. That has provided an environment that has allowed a lot of discussions about many other issues to take place.

What we said is that we favor a dialogue between the two sides, but the pace, scope and manner of that dialogue should be up to the people on both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait to determine. The dialogue should take place in a way that recognizes the dignity of both sides.

Finally, we oppose unilateral actions taken by either side that would change the “status quo.”

Question: With Taiwan’s new administration soon to be inaugurated, what would you do to enhance relations between Taiwan and the US? What is your priority?

Moy: Overall, the relationship is very solid right now. I would say — and many in Washington would say — that we are probably in the best state of our relations since they began. So, we are really confident that we are going to have solid relationships with president-elect Tsai and her administration.

One of the reasons why the relationships have really improved is that both sides agree we should continue with what we called the “no-surprises” approach and we should have as frequent and clear communications as possible.

For example, I think, in the economic and trade area, this is one area the US would like to see progress. To be even more specific, our trade and investment framework — what we call the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement — will be a great example of an area we made progress in that would have concrete benefits for the people from both sides. We are hoping to have more discussions this year, and from what it sounds like, Dr Tsai has been [advocating these] publicly. We hope to take the advantage of this opportunity, in this one area where we can see again mutual benefits we should be striving for.

That is just one example, but we have shared interests and shared values with Taiwan. So, I can imagine we have got shared interests in democracy, freedom of press, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, rules of law. All of these [plus] shared interests in the open market and shared prosperity as well as a shared interest in Taiwan’s security. So, I think there are plenty of areas we can continue to strengthen under the relationship.

Question: Will the US adopt a bigger perspective, or a strategic perspective to look at the whole situation with respect to Taiwan’s intention to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), instead of focusing on minor details such as lifting the ban on US pork imports?

Moy: Before I get into the substance of your question, we have to take a step back on where we are on the TPP. I think there is an important point here. As you may well know that the 12 parties of the TPP came to an agreement on language a short time ago [in October last year]. The agreement itself has not been published. Our priority in the US government is trying to get this to pass our Congress. So, I think, for us, it’s hard to speculate on possible TPP expansion before we take steps again in the Congress. That said, we have long been of the opinion that we welcome Taiwan’s interest in TPP. We think as my colleague, [US] Assistance Secretary of State Daniel Russel, has said in the past that we think it [Taiwan] is a good candidate.

Now, it has to be taken into the larger perspective of the expansion. We also should know that right now what Taiwan is doing is that there is a review going on here. What we should be doing is taking a look at specifics, taking a look at the language in the TPP to determine if Taiwan can make these kinds of adjustment in its own economic and trade structure to comply with the TPP. And then, determine after that whether it actually wants to continue on. If that is the case, I think these 12 parties, all of them, not just the US, will have to make a determination down the road. But, we have not come to that point yet.

It is a trade agreement and it is going to be a very high-minded trade agreement. The goal is to create the freest of all trade agreements with the most open market in the world, and so, really, determination has to be made on the merits of the candidacy based on trade. The bottom line is this kind of decision has to be made on the basis of whether we think the individual economy can qualify.

Question: Will Beijing be a factor in Taiwan’s participation in the TPP?

Moy: We haven’t have had discussions about others being a factor in this [Taiwan’s participation in the TPP]. It is probably because we haven’t heard what that hurdle would be. Right now, we judge the candidacy of each interested party based on its merits and based on trade issues exclusively.

Question: During [former US president George W.] Bush’s administration, there was a lot of improvements and progress in terms of US-Taiwan security cooperation. However, during [US President Barack] Obama’s administration, there have been fewer arms sales and less security cooperation. The US government often denies the nation what Taiwan deems as the most important weapons. Would you help to enhance the dialogue, mutual understanding and trust between the US and Taiwan, so the US would sell Taiwan the weapons it requires? Do you have any particular suggestions for the new administration regarding defense and security areas?

Moy: I am familiar with all of the discussions on this issue because while I was in Washington, I also played a role in arms packages. I think this administration actually has a very solid and positive record on this. We are guided by the Taiwan Relations Act as you know. We are legally mandated to provide defense articles as well as services to help Taiwan’s defense.

If you just look at the numbers, I think most people would be quite impressed that since 2009, [US] Congress [has authorized] more than US$14 billion [in arms sales to Taiwan]. Even last month, a package of US$1.83 billion [was authorized].

Remember the Taiwan Relations Act stipulates that the US should provide defense articles and services. The part that a lot of people do not realize is that we have probably doubled the amount of services, meaning training for Taiwan, than what we used to do. That is another remarkable achievement or an area of progress in the last few years.

I think the cooperation is very positive in the area of security. One thing I have noticed is that our respective security agencies consult quite often, on a daily basis in fact, trying to determine the most appropriate types of items and training. So when we arrive at an arms package or when we make a final decision on training or exercises this kind of things, it is actually through the consultation process. Both sides have an ample opportunity to do reviews and analysis of what would help. That is exactly what we are trying to do and I think we are pretty successful.

In line with the coordination and cooperation I discussed before, I think there is a tendency — I do not mean it as a criticism, but as an observation — that [Taiwan] try to put emphasis on items or areas that are the most expensive or create headline stories.

I think the most important thing is you have to take a comprehensive look at is your defense. You have to make determinations on what things you need. I can just offer that we will provide as much assistance as we possibly can to help out because we are firmly committed to helping in this very important area.

Question: The US has been saying that it favors and encourages cross-strait dialogues. However, what lies in front of us is the fact that Tsai and the DPP clearly state the “1992 consensus” does not exist. Would the US encourage Beijing to take up the new mandate of Taiwan, as in Tsai’s new offer to not insist on attaching the “1992 consensus” to the foundation of cross-strait dialogues [but rather a new formula for coexistence]?

Moy: We don’t define the term, it’s for the parties to be able to do that. The bottom line though is that we are encouraging a dialogue, a kind of engagement, because we feel that it really does reduce tension a lot and that really creates a much better environment for all countries in this region. We really are not a party to this and so we really shouldn’t have a view on something that has been discussed in the past.

I have noted though, I did read the interview you did with Madame Tsai and one of the questions was about the cross-strait relationship. I think she said it quite articulately, I don’t have a view on specific things she said necessarily, but in terms of overall engagement, dialogue, if this leads to that kind of engagement, something that has been going on for the last few years and culminating with the meeting in Singapore, then certainly the United States would be supportive.

The interview was conducted by Staff Reporters:Tzou Jiing-wen, Huang Tai-lin, Lisa Wang and Stacy Hsu