U.S. should stand with Taiwan amid growing threats: Senator Gardner

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In this file photo, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., center, joined by, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In this file photo, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., center, joined by, from left, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

DENVER (CNA) — U.S. Senator Cory Gardner on July 19 urged the United States to stand with Taiwan, which he said is facing growing threats, and he touted the ties between the two democracies as stronger than ever.

Gardner, who represents Colorado, made the remarks before joining Colorado Governor Jared Polis and about 700 Taiwanese expatriates in attending a banquet held to welcome President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

“We can look no further than Hong Kong to see the threats that Taiwan faces and the challenges that Taiwan faces. That is why it is more important than ever that we stand with Taiwan,” said Gardner, who chairs the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.

He was referring to the situation in Hong Kong where protests have erupted in recent months since the government put forward a controversial extradition bill that would have allowed authorities there to extradite crime suspects not just to Taiwan and Macau, but also China, where the legal system is seen as capricious at best.

Although the Hong Kong government has “indefinitely suspended” the bill, fears persist among the people there that they would lose their freedoms and human rights under China’s “one country, two systems” framework that is in effect in Hong Kong.

Tsai arrived in the city of Denver earlier Friday on the last stop of her 12-day overseas trip that included a stopover in New York City en route to Taiwan’s four allies in the Caribbean.

Shortly after Tsai’s arrival in Denver, she had a closed-door meeting with Gardner to discuss security matters, economic opportunities, the Taiwan-U.S. relationship, a possible bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), and several other issues, Gardner told reporters.

He said the U.S. government’s announcement earlier this month of a US$2.22 billion arms package to Taiwan underscored Washington’s fulfillment of its obligations to Taipei under the Taiwan Relations Act.

“It is also something that we acknowledged in the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) signed into law by the (U.S.) president Dec. 31, where we will continue making arms sales to Taiwan, that we will regularize and routinize these kinds of sales as we continue to do more,” he said.

On the issue of a potential bilateral FTA, Gardner said he would continue to work with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to enter into discussions with Taiwan on an FTA.

Tsai’s “historic visit” to Colorado comes at a time when “the U.S.-Taiwan relationship is at the strongest point they have ever been,” Gardner said, noting that it was the first time a sitting Taiwan president was visiting the state.

“If you look at the relationship and the support the people of U.S. have for Taiwan, it has never been greater,” he said.

On Saturday, Gardner said, he and Tsai will discuss opportunities for cooperation between the U.S. and Taiwan in the energy industry.

“I think this will be a great chance for us to further show what two great democratic voices, the U.S. and Taiwan, can do together,” he said.

Tsai’s itinerary on Saturday includes visits to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a U.S. federal laboratory dedicated to renewable energy development, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which developed FormoSat-7, the second satellite constellation jointly built by Taiwan and the U.S.

Separately Friday, Tsai also held a closed-door meeting with Polis, during which they talked about Colorado’s promotion of renewable energy and cultural and educational exchanges, National Security Council Deputy Secretary-General Tsai Ming-yen (蔡明彥) said.

Tsai Ming-yen said Polis expressed the hope of seeing greater cooperation between both sides on higher education, given that there are about 200 Taiwanese students in Denver.

Polis also pledged to visit Taiwan during his possible trip to Asia in 2020 or 2021, he said.

By Stacy Hsu, Wen Kuei-hsiang and Lin Hung-han