US comfortable with improved cross-Taiwan Strait ties: AIT head


TAIPEI — The United States encourages increased cross-Taiwan Strait dialogue and is not nervous about warming ties between Taiwan and China, the top U.S. diplomat in Taiwan said yesterday.

The U.S. does not feel “nervous” or “left out” because improving cross-strait ties are good for both sides of the strait, the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region, said William Stanton, Director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Taipei Office.

“A peaceful and stable Taiwan Strait is a godsend” for all, he said in a speech at a symposium to mark the 20th founding anniversary of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), a quasi-official organization that deals with cross-strait negotiations.

Taiwan, as a vibrant and thriving democracy, has fair and free elections that provide “a mechanism for ensuring that your administration and its policy, particular on critical issues such as cross strait ties, remain in line with the will of the people,” he said.

The diplomat reaffirmed the U.S.’ strong support for peaceful resolution of cross-strait differences and said that Washington will continue to play “an important, if indirect, role” in Taiwan-China relations.

He said the dramatic transformation of cross-strait exchanges in the last three decades highlighted people-to-people interactions, some of which were unimaginable in the mid-1980s when he first visited Taiwan.

Some examples of such interactions are the one million Taiwanese who do business in China and now call it home, the 365 direct flights across the strait every week, the 4,000 Chinese tourists arriving in Taiwan every day on average, and the more than 5,000 Chinese students who are studying in Taiwan, he said.

The U.S. intends to keep working with Taiwan on the visa-waiver program, export controls and arm sales and strongly supports Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations, Stanton said.

The U.S. encourages Taiwan to further engage with China in the future “at a pace and scope politically approved by the people of Taiwan,” Stanton said.

Noting that Taiwan ranked as the U.S.’ ninth largest trade partner last year, the director said he would like to see increased trade between the two sides.

The value of two-way trade between the U.S. and China in 2010 was US$90 billion, he noted. With a population of 23 million as opposed to China’s 1.3 billion, two-way trade between the U.S. and Taiwan that year totaled US$59 billion, which explains the importance of Taiwan-U.S. trade ties, said the AIT director.

The AIT is the de facto U.S. representative office in Taiwan in the absence of bilateral diplomatic ties.