Washington – The United States hopes to continue its close cooperation with Taiwan achieved in recent years, a U.S. State Department official said Thursday, stressing that an important ingredient of that close cooperation is the stable development of ties across the Taiwan Strait.
Susan Thornton, deputy U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, made the comments before Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), is due to visit the U.S. in June as the opposition’s candidate in Taiwan’s next presidential election.
During a speech at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, titled “Taiwan: A Vital Partner in East Asia,” Thornton reiterated that the U.S. welcomes the steps taken by Taiwan and China in recent years to reduce tension and improve cross-strait relations.
“We encourage the authorities in both Beijing and Taipei to continue their constructive dialogue on the basis of dignity and respect,” she said.
The U.S. policy on cross-strait relations is not directed at one side of the Taiwan Strait or the other, she said, reiterating Washington’s position that there should be no unilateral attempts to change the status quo.
“Even as we discuss our abiding interest in peaceful and stable cross-strait relations with our friends in Taiwan, we also encourage Beijing to demonstrate flexibility and restraint,” Thornton said.
She added that the stable cross-strait ties have delivered enormous benefits to both sides of the strait, the U.S. and the region.
“It is important that both sides of the strait understand the importance of these benefits and work to establish a basis for continued peace and stability,” she said.
“Maintaining close communication and a no-surprises, low-key approach has allowed all parties to demonstrate restraint and flexibility,” she said. “We want to see this approach continue.”
On the visit by Tsai, Thornton extended her welcome and said she looks forward to a productive exchange. “We also welcome other candidates to visit, should they wish to do so,” she said.
“Regardless of who becomes the next Taiwan president, we hope to continue our close cooperation,” she said. “And it must be said that an important ingredient of that close cooperation in recent years has been the stable management of cross-strait ties.”
The U.S. has an abiding interest in the preservation of cross-strait stability, which informs its overall approach to cross-strait issues, she said, reiterating that Washington remains committed to its one-China policy, based on the Three Joint Communiques with China and the Taiwan Relations Act.
Asked about the U.S. stance on the so-called “1992 consensus” during a question-and-answer session, Thornton said that “we want to see the continued stable foundation and continuation of stable cross-strait ties.”
But as to “the name that is given to that foundation, I don’t think that it’s really appropriate for the U.S. to either favor or disfavor,” she added.
The “1992 Consensus” refers to a tacit agreement between Taiwan and China that there is only one China, with both sides free to interpret the meaning of the term. The DPP refuses to acknowledge that the consensus exists, calling it merely a consensus between the Kuomintang and the Communist Party of China.
Meanwhile, in the security area, Thornton said that the U.S. makes available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defense.
“We believe our policy supports improved relations across the Taiwan Strait by providing Taiwan with confidence to pursue constructive interactions with China,” she added.
In her speech, Thornton also noted that U.S.-Taiwan “unofficial relations” have never been better, citing progress in bilateral cooperation in trade, humanitarian assistance and other areas.