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Taiwan should not be worried about U.S.-China summit: envoy

Central News Agency

2009/10/22 19:30:04

By Rachel Chan

Taipei, Oct. 22 (CNA) Taiwan should not be concerned about the upcoming meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, as the two countries seeking a more cooperative relationship is in the interests of the world, the top U.S. envoy to Taiwan said Thursday.

“A simple fact is that China is clearly one of the most important countries in the world. So it’s in everybody’s interests, including Taiwan's as well, that the U.S. try to have a cooperative relationship with China,”said William Stanton, director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), at his first official meeting with local media after assuming office two months ago.

President Obama is scheduled to pay his first state visit to China on Nov. 15 after attending the Nov. 12-14 leaders summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Singapore. Some local Taiwanese media have raised concerns about whether Obama’s trip will affect Washington-Taipei relations.

Noting that U.S. policies toward Taiwan under the Obama administration have not changed and are still based on the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), Stanton said although he believed the Taiwan issue would be raised during the meeting between Obama and Hu, the two will focus on discussing global issues, such as climate change and regional issues.

“I don’t think we can expect any surprises in that regard, ” Stanton said, adding that he has not heard any concerns about that meeting raised either by members of the government or by the opposition in Taiwan.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act, which was passed in 1979 after Washington established diplomatic relations with Beijing and severed formal diplomatic ties with Taipei, the U.S. is obliged to guarantee defensive arms sales to Taiwan.

On the issue of China’s growing military strength and influence in the region, Stanton said it’s no secret that the U.S. government has been taking note of Chinese military power in many of its own military assessments and reports, in which the U.S. does not agree with China’s assessment of what potential international wars are, nor does it accept the definition of the economic zones.

Stanton, the de facto U.S. ambassador to Taiwan in the absence of formal diplomatic relations, reiterated the U.S. commitment under the TRA to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons, but said that further arms sales is a matter that is still under review.

He, however, said that the U.S.-Taiwan military relationship should not be judged only on weapons sales, as there are other military exchanges and training programs between the two sides.

The U.S. Defense Department notified Congress on Oct. 3, 2008 of its approval of a US$6.46 billion arms package to Taiwan, which includes Apache attack helicopters, Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries, Javelin anti-tank missiles and sea-launched Harpoon missiles, as well as an upgrade of the E-2T aircraft to the Hawkeye 2000 configuration, along with related support equipment.

However, the approved package does not include the diesel-electric submarines and Black Hawk helicopters that Taiwan is seeking. President Ma Ying-jeou has also reiterated his administration's desire to acquire U.S.-built F-16 C/Ds and other weapons on many public occasions.

Asked whether the U.S. could still carry out its commitments to Taiwan with a 30-year-old TRA given the fact that both situations in the international arena and across the Taiwan Strait have changed dramatically, Stanton said that the TRA has served very well as the guideline for U.S. policy.

“That document reflects U.S. interests and reflects U.S.

values. Those don’t change all that quickly. Interests and values are the bedrock of our relationship with Taiwan,”Stanton said.

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