Taiwan can help solve problems, US official says

RECOGNITION::The US is committed to finding ways for Taiwan to earn the respect that its contributions merit, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Tong said

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Fri, Mar 04, 2016 - Page 3

The US is confident that Taiwan can be a leader in helping solve pressing global and regional challenges, a senior Washington official said on Wednesday.

“Taiwan has a lot to offer in the way of capacity, expertise and resources and that is why we continue with our efforts to elevate Taiwan’s international profile and dignity,” US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Tong told a roundtable discussion on the Taiwan-US Global Cooperation Training Framework (GCTF) agreement at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at George Washington University.

That Tong was sitting alongside Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達) added to the meeting’s importance. Under the complex diplomatic protocols that rule US-Taiwan relations, senior officials rarely meet face to face this way.

“Today is unique, an unprecedented setup,” Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office representative Shen Lyu-shun (沈呂巡) said.

The GCTF agreement involves Taiwan and the US working together to train other regional nations on a wide variety of issues.

It was signed in June last year, and Linghu was in Washington for a US Department of State meeting to discuss future projects.

Shen said that the agreement marked the beginning of a new era and was a milestone in US-Taiwan cooperation.

He said it showed that the bilateral relationship could be upgraded and expanded.

“We can easily work together because we all believe in democracy, human rights, freedom and individual rights, peace and stability,” Linghu said.

He said the US-Taiwan relationship was “very close, very robust” and that GCTF was “another important token” of the partnership.

Tong said the foundation of the US-Taiwan partnership was shared values — a commitment to democracy, civil liberties and human rights.

“The people in Taiwan have built a prosperous, free, orderly society with strong institutions worthy of emulation. Taiwan is a model for others,” he said.

Tong said that Taiwan was a responsible global citizen and the US supported Taiwan’s membership in international organizations where statehood was not a requirement, and promoted Taiwan’s meaningful participation in organizations where membership was not possible.

“We all stand to benefit when Taiwan is included in the international arena,” he said.

Tong said the GCTF idea was “quite simple” and resulted in the US and Taiwan conducting training programs for nations throughout the region to assist them in building their own capacities, with topics ranging from women’s rights, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and democratization to global health and energy security.

“Yesterday representatives from the two sides met and discussed the next set of priorities for the GCTF including exploring pressing regional issues and brainstorming how Taiwan and the US can best cooperate together and with others to combat future challenges in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond,” Tong said.

He said women’s empowerment had been discussed at length and that Taiwan has recently elected its first-ever female president, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), whom he said the US looks forward to working with and knowing better in the future.

Tong also said that the ratio of Taiwanese women elected to the legislature is the highest in Asia at 38 percent, which is nearly double the figure in the US.

Tong said the next GCTF project would be an international women’s empowerment conference to be held in Taipei next week.

“We in the US are committed to finding new ways for Taiwan to earn the dignity and respect that its contributions merit,” he said.

Former US deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia Randy Schriver said during a panel discussion that GCTF helped make the US-Taiwan relationship “consequential and meaningful.”

“One of my pet issues for a long time has been the need to improve communications at the highest levels,” he said.

“I wish our presidents could talk to each other. I think presidents and elected officials are different creatures and different characters and they think differently and they talk differently and having people at that level talk to each other is important,” Schriver said.

Additional Reporting by CNA