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Diaoyutai row not behind small U.S. presence at forum: deputy minister

ROC Central News Agency

2012/10/02 13:29:10

Hershey, Pennsylvania, Oct. 1 (CNA) Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Yang said Monday that the absence of high-ranking American officials at the Taiwan-U.S. Defense Industry Conference has nothing to do with Taiwan's recent handling of a territorial dispute with Japan over the Diaoyutai Islands.

The American Institute in Taiwan, which represents the United States' interests in Taiwan, informed him by phone of the no-show of U.S. officials and reassured him that U.S.-Taiwan ties remain warm, Yang said at a press conference in Pennsylvania.

Yang was countering a report in Taiwan Monday that said the absences stemmed from Washington's discontent over the standoff between Taiwanese Coast Guard vessels and their Japanese counterparts in waters near the island group in late September.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Steve Hsia also said the absence of U.S. officials at the conference was not related to the government's efforts to protect Taiwanese fishermen during their visit to the Diaoyutais to assert the country's sovereignty over the island group.

"It was because their schedules could not fit the conference in," Hsia said, adding that Yang will meet with senior U.S. government officials during his visit there.

Yang is in Hershey as the head of Taiwan's delegation to this year's conference, which opened Oct. 1 and is held annually to address future U.S. defense cooperation with Taiwan and Taiwan's defense and national security needs and weapons procurement plans.

Diplomatic sources said he will head for Washington D.C. after the conference to meet with senior officials from the U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department said on its website that the conference is a private industry event and not an official event.

"A senior-level State Department official was not available to speak at this event due to scheduling conflicts. However, several State Department representatives are attending,”it said, without identifying them.

"The State Department has regular and robust interactions with Taiwan authorities at various levels. Our channels of communication and our cooperation with Taiwan remain significant, consistent with long-standing U.S. policy.”

In the past, the United States has sent assistant secretary-level officials from the State Department and the Department of Defense to attend the conference and deliver keynote speeches on the occasion.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council, said Sunday that Mark Lippert, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, was originally scheduled to attend the annual meeting.

But the council was informed on Sept. 28 that Lippert could not attend because of scheduling issues, Hammond-Chambers said, adding that the council also received a similar notice from the State Department on the same day.

(By Tony Liao, Elaine Hou and Jamie Wang)

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