Chinese opinions irrelevant to ties with US: premier

Staff writer, with CNA, Washington

Sat, Mar 03, 2018 - Page 3

Taiwan-US relations should not be affected by the opinions of China or any other nation, Premier William Lai (賴清德) said yesterday.

Lai made the remarks at the Legislative Yuan when asked by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus deputy secretary-general William Tseng (曾銘宗) to share his view on commentaries that Beijing could step up measures to suppress Taiwan in the international community as a response to the US Senate’s passage of the Taiwan Travel Act on Wednesday.

“The US is a world leader, and Taiwan is a sovereign nation. The exchanges between Taiwan and the US should not rely on the opinions of China or any other nation,” Lai said. “It is unnecessary to worry about China’s unreasonable opinions.”

Asked whether he had made plans to visit Washington, Lai said that he had not, but that it would be “great” if US President Donald Trump signed the act into law to normalize bilateral visits between Taiwanese and US officials — a view echoed by Tseng.

US academics on Thursday said that Taiwan should think about the implications of the act, especially what it means for relations across the Taiwan Strait, and to assess whether the nation can stand up to the pressure that will come from China as a result.

The act was a topic during a panel discussion hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) titled “Japanese Views on China and Taiwan: Implications for the US-Japan Alliance.”

The discussion was moderated by CSIS senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair Michael Green, who called into question the usefulness of the act, which would allow high-level officials from the US and Taiwan to travel to each other’s nations.

For Taiwan, it is more important to have a “very closely aligned US-Japan alliance on cross-strait issues” than “a slight upgrade in US visits or access,” Green said.

While both options would represent upgrades in Taiwan-US relations, Green said that a solid alliance between the US and Japan on issues related to cross-strait relations would be a “far more important deterrent and shaper of Chinese policies.”

He called the act only a symbolic change in Taiwan-US relations.

China will likely react to the passage of the act by going after Taiwan, not the US, so Taipei needs to be sure that “it really wants this,” Green said.

CSIS senior adviser and China Power Project director Bonnie Glaser acknowledged that the act “encourages” visits to take place between high-level officials between Taiwan and the US, but is not binding.

However, she expressed confidence that the act, if signed into law, would see a loosening of such restrictions, and is more likely to be implemented than clauses in the US’ National Defense Authorization Act that allow, but do not order, the re-establishment of regular port calls to Taiwan by the US Navy and Taiwan’s participation in joint military drills.

Additional reporting by Sean Lin