U.S. defense secretary reaffirms commitment to Taiwan

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis delivers his speech during the first plenary session of the 17th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, an annual defense and security forum in Asia, in Singapore, Saturday, June 2, 2018, in Singapore. (AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim)

Singapore, June 2 (CNA) The United States remains committed to working with Taiwan to provide defense articles and services necessary to maintain sufficient self-defense capability under the Taiwan Relations Act, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Saturday.

Speaking in Singapore at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference, Mattis reiterated that the U.S. is “against all unilateral efforts to alter the status quo, and will continue to insist any resolution of differences accord with the will of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”

“As a Pacific nation, the U.S. remains committed to building a shared destiny with this region,” he said, adding that the country will always remain committed to maintaining the region’s security, stability and economic prosperity.

“It is a view that transcends America’s political transitions, and we’ll continue to enjoy Washington’s strong bipartisan support,” he explained.

Andrew Yang (楊念祖), a Taiwanese scholar on defense affairs and a former defense minister who also attended the conference, said Mattis’ comments about Taiwan have a clear implication for Taiwan’s role in the U.S.’ Indo-Pacific strategy.

However, how Taiwan can contribute to that role still remains to be seen, Yang said.

Oh Ei Sun, principal adviser to the Pacific Research Centre in Malaysia, said the India-Pacific Strategy has been put forth by the Trump administration in the past year, and the role Taiwan plays is believed to be a topic of concern for neighboring countries.

Responding to Mattis’ remarks, He Lei, deputy president of the People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Sciences, told reporters that China firmly opposes U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

He went on to point out that the Chinese government will not tolerate any plans or activities, in any form or name, which attempt to separate Taiwan from the motherland.

The PLA is confident and determined to defend its sovereignty, he said.

The annual security summit for Asia is being held at the Shangri-La Hotel until Sunday, and is attended by defense ministers and officials from more than 50 countries, including China, the U.S., Australia, Japan, India, France, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Key speakers include Japan’s Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera, and Canadian Minister of National Defense Harjit Singh Sajjan.

(By Huang Tzu-chiang and Ko Lin)