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2004-04-22 17:42:21

    Washington, April 21 (CNA) The United States hopes that both sides of the Taiwan Strait begin formal talks again soon, although it will not force Taiwan to go to the negotiating table, a U.S. official said Wednesday.

    James A. Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, made the remarks when he testified at a hearing marking the 25th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act at the House International Relations Committee.

    Kelly said that the United States is not a direct participant in cross-strait disputes, but is keenly interested in creating an environment conducive to a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues. For this reason, the United States has maintained strong relations with both Taipei and Beijing.

    According to the "six assurances" made to Taiwan during the Reagan administration, the United States will continue to sell defensive weapons and provide services to Taiwan, as a safe and confident Taiwan will be encouraged to engage in political exchanges and dialogues with mainland China.

    But the United States hopes that Taiwan will not mistake such supports as giving it a blank check to boycott dialogues with Beijing, he said.

    Kelly also said that in President Chen Shui-bian's May 20, 2000 inaugural speech, he expressed his desire to resume stalled cross-strait dialogue without preconditions and laid out the "four noes plus one" pledge, which includes no referendum on the status of the nation.

    Kelly noted that President Chen will face many challenges over the next few years, and the best way to deal with the crisis arising from mainland China will be to promote democracy, ensure economic growth, upgrade the wellbeing of the people, as well strengthen Taiwan's security.

    Similarity, Beijing will face tough challenges, he said, in terms of overcoming poverty and backwardness, establishing the rule of law, starting the process of political reforms, and encouraging openness.

    Therefore, if there is a clash, the result of reforms over the past years, and the international respect that goes with them will all go down the drain, he said.

    He stressed that if war erupts in the Taiwan Strait, both sides will retrogress for scores of years.

    For the sake of bilateral interests, Taipei and Beijing should resume dialogue without preconditions.

    He suggested that in the absence of political dialogue, both sides can start by strengthening financial exchanges, allowing direct sea and air transportation links, increasing private contacts, establishing a confidence-building mechanism between the two sides, and upgrading the quality of communications on both sides to reduce the chances of misunderstandings.

    The "six assurance" in 1982 say that the United States will not agree to set a time for ending arms sales to Taiwan, will not agree to hold prior consultations with the Chinese Communists on arms sales to Taiwan, will not play a mediation role between Taipei and Beijing, will not revise the Taiwan Relations Act, has not altered its position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan, and will not exert pressure on Taiwan to enter into negotiations with Beijing.

(By Jorge Liu and Lilian Wu)


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