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U.S. should view Taiwan as constructive partner: Foreign Minister

ROC Central News Agency

2008-02-25 20:32:26

    Taipei, Feb. 25 (CNA) Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang urged the United States Monday to view Taiwan as its constructive partner and provide incentives to boost bilateral trade and exchanges at a time when relations are seen to be dangerously drifting. "We hope that America can base its Taiwan policy on the conception of 'constructive partnership' underpinned by our shared belief in universal values of democracy, freedom, and human rights as well as our common interests in peace and stability in Asia, " Huang said in a keynote speech on the future of U.S.-Taiwan relations at a seminar in Taipei.

    While he acknowledged that Taiwan's government should make more of an effort to improve ties, Huang called on America "to provide incentives for both countries to boost bilateral trades on the basis of Free Trade Agreement, to promote exchanges in academic community and industries, and to encourage high-level official visits."

    Huang's appeal comes at a time when relations between Washington and Taipei are strained, as reflected in a Taiwan Policy Working Group report unveiled at the seminar.

    The report, called "Strengthening Freedom in Asia: A Twenty-First Century Agenda for the U.S.-Taiwan Partnership, " was prepared by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and Armitage International, in collaboration with the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy.

    Huang said he concurred with the report's observation that "frequent official contacts are key to healthy Taiwan-U.S. interaction."

    The report argues that the issue is urgent now that U.S.- Taiwan relations are "dangerously drifting, " with Beijing using diplomatic isolation and the threat of military force to pressure Taiwan into an unfavorable settlement and Taiwan reacting by forcing intractable disputes to the front of the debate. "The win-win situation in Taiwan-U.S. relations lies in candid communication to minimize misunderstanding and strengthen mutual trust, " Huang said, reiterating what he said he told Stephen Young when Young took over as the director of the American Institute in Taiwan in 2006.

    He said the absence of official ties between Taiwan and America should not become an obstacle to establishing an effective communication mechanism, particularly on critical issues, and "direct contacts at the highest level will be effective in minimizing misunderstanding."

    Although Washington has encouraged the promotion of democracy in Taiwan for the past 20 years, it more recently has grown reserved and concerned about the development of Taiwan-centered consciousness, Huang said, citing the countries' differences over Taiwan's two referendums on Taiwan's United Nations membership bid.

    Democracy in Taiwan and Taiwan-centered consciousness cannot be separated, Huang said, because it would "not follow the logic of democracy -- that people are free and entitled to speak and pursue happiness for themselves," he said.

    Echoing the report's description of Taiwan's democracy as a beacon to other societies seeking peaceful political liberalization, Huang stressed that a strong, thriving and prosperous Taiwan is a concrete manifestation of the sustained success of the free and democratic system. "Taiwan's democracy and its independent existence and development are therefore an asset of America in the region," he said.

    The Taiwan Policy Working Group first convened in January 2007 to discus the status of U.S.-Taiwan political, military, and economic relations.

    The working group's co-directors, Dan Blumenthal of AEI and Randall Schriver of Armitage International, investigated areas in which a more positive and productive agenda might be forged and provided advice to both the U.S. and Taiwan government in promoting bilateral relations.

(By Rachel Chan)

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