The China Post news staff
The U.S. government is skeptical of opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen’s ability to maintain cross-strait relationships, and those between Taipei and Washington, a local newspaper reported yesterday. Washington has expressed the skepticism through a so-called “second track” U.S.-Taiwan communication channel, citing Tsai’s refusal to accept the “1992 Consensus” that has helped stabilize cross-strait ties, the United Evening News said. The comments were made by a retired senior diplomat from the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) during a recent “second track” discussion with the Taiwan side on the presidential bid of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate. But DPP spokesman Michael Chen questioned the report as “political manipulation” against Tsai’s bid.
According to the retired AIT official, as cited by the newspaper, the U.S. government has told Tsai many times that accepting the “1992 Consensus” would help the DPP maintain a stable relationship with Beijing after winning the election. It would also facilitate constructive ties between Taiwan, China and the United States. Accepting the “1992 Consensus” would be the best proof that she would not seek Taiwan’s independence. But Tsai has shown little interest in the advice, the retired official said, attributing her reluctance to worries about estranging herself from pro-independence fundamentalists. Although former President Lee Teng-hui and the DPP have constantly rejected the “1992 Consensus,” the retired AIT diplomat said the U.S. government has never questioned it, judging from Taipei’s frequent reference to it. According to the ex-AIT official, cross-strait ties would worsen if Tsai wins the election, because her refusal to accept the “1992 Consensus” would be taken to mean failure of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s Taiwan policy. Communist hard-liners would then push for harsh measures to deal with Taiwan, which, under Tsai’s pro-independence administration, would adopt tough counter measures. The vicious cycle would stall the Taiwan government and its economy. In 2000, Washington asked Beijing to observe Chen Shui-bian for some time following his election as president, the former AIT official said. But the U.S. government would not be as patient with Tsai as with Chen, the ex-official said, adding that having had bad experience dealing with Chen, Beijing would ask Washington to exert pressure on Tsai. The ex-official said the U.S. government has not been convinced despite Tsai’s promise of pragmatism in handling cross-strait ties. Tsai’s promise is empty and the United Stats is not certain how she would approach cross-strait affairs, the ex-official said. But DPP spokesman Michael Chen said the U.S. State Department has reiterated many times that it remains neural concerning Taiwan’s upcoming presidential poll. The U.S. government has expressed strong support for Taiwan’s “democratic choice,” he said. In the absence of a formal diplomatic relationship, Taipei and Washington handle their ties through the former’s representative offices in the United States and the latter’s AIT. But since 1994, both sides have developed a “second track” communication channel that offers even closer and more direct contact between them, serving as a messenger of sensitive political messages in particular, the United Evening News said. Messages could be exchanged during academic forums attended by retired officials and scholars, or during closed-door meetings, the paper said.