The US’ disclosure of Taiwan’s exclusion from a Washington-created Indo-Pacific economic initiative a day before its launch was a sign of respect to Taiwan and followed a long-standing “no surprises” policy, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tien Chung-kwang (田中光) said yesterday.
Tien made the remarks when asked by an opposition lawmaker at a legislative session whether Taiwan’s exclusion from the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) showed that Taiwan-US relations were not as “rock solid” as claimed by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government.
Tien quoted White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan as saying on Sunday — a day before US President Joe Biden launched the IPEF in Tokyo — that Taiwan would not be a part of the IPEF for now.
Sullivan had been replying to a journalist’s question on the US presidential airplane as it flew to Japan.
“I believe that, in so doing, the US was showing respect to Taiwan, and following Taiwan’s and the US’ practice of keeping things surprise-free,” Tien told Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wen Yu-hsia (溫玉霞).
However, Tien said that he was not personally informed in advance by the US, but only became aware that Taiwan was being excluded from the IPEF when he read US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks in the media.
Tien added that he could not speak on behalf of Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) or the entire government.
Taiwan might be included in the framework later — maybe in the next round, when the IPEF is opened to new members, he added.
Tien quoted a previous remark by Blinken that the US would “engage virtually every country” in the region and that “there is nothing that closes the door on anyone, including Taiwan.”
Despite Tien’s reassurances, lawmakers across party lines yesterday were not convinced that Washington was showing Taipei respect by giving it one day’s warning.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said that Sullivan only revealed Taiwan’s exclusion after a reporter questioned him aboard Air Force One on the way from South Korea to Japan.
If Washington did not give Taipei advanced warning via diplomatic channels, it was definitely a surprise, regardless of how Tien reframed it, Lo said.
“I don’t believe this can be interpreted as a sign of respect,” Lo said.
Biden on Monday announced in Tokyo that 13 countries had joined the IPEF, an informal alliance touted as a counterweight to China’s aggressive expansion in the region.
In addition to the US, the founding members are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Taiwan’s exclusion was regrettable, as it is an important economy that is crucial to global supply chains and qualifies for inclusion.
Two Taiwanese analysts told the Central News Agency on Sunday that Taiwan was excluded from the initiative to avoid painting the framework as an anti-China coalition, which might keep other countries from joining.
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