WASHINGTON, The U.S. Department of Defense reaffirmed on Tuesday that U.S. policy toward China is based on three joint communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act, which requires Washington to sell Taiwan defensive weapons.
The Pentagon was responding to a comment made by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in Beijing on Tuesday that he believes U.S. arms sales to Taiwan may evolve into less of a hot-button issue in its relations with China.
Responding to a Central News Agency reporter’s question about the significance of Gates’ statement, a Pentagon spokesman said: “If you read the transcript, then you would know that our policy remains unchanged.”
In a roundtable discussion with reporters in Beijing, Gates said Chinese officials did not directly threaten to suspend military-to-military contacts if the United States sold weapons to Taiwan again, but it was clear that they considered such sales against their core interests.
China suspended all military-to-military contacts with America last year after it sold a package of defensive weapons to Taiwan. Gates is visiting China this week, in part, to restart those contacts, according to the American Forces Press Service.
Gates said he made it clear to his Chinese counterparts that Washington’s policy toward China and Taiwan had not changed.
“First of all, we do have a one China policy. We do consider the policy to be based on the three joint communiques — I always add ‘and the Taiwan Relations Act,’” he said.
The Three Communiques were signed in 1972, 1979 and 1982, and the Taiwan Relations Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1979 after the Washington severed formal relations with Taipei.
Stressing that the Taiwan Relations Act was not policy but a law, Gates said it required the United States to provide Taiwan with defensive weapons and “to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.”
Gates noted, however, that the United States did not support independence for Taiwan and took into account China’s feelings on the issue.
“Under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, we have been certainly cognizant of Chinese sensitivities, and I believe the decisions that have been made have focused on defensive capabilities.”
Gates told Chinese leaders that the United States was not going to change its policies in the near future.
“But over time, if the environment changed and if the relationship between China and Taiwan continued to improve, and the security environment for Taiwan changed, then perhaps that would create the conditions for re-examining all of this,” he said.
“But that would be an evolutionary and long term process, it seems to me. I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon.
“So they made their point and I made mine,” he said.