US senator tells Taiwan not to stir trouble
But Taipei’s Foreign Ministry rejects his claim that Washington may not defend island if it starts a conflict with Beijing
ASSOCIATED PRESS in Washington and LAWRENCE CHUNG in Taipei
An influential US senator has warned Taiwan against moves that could spur armed conflict with the mainland, saying Washington may not come “full force” to the island’s rescue.
The comment by Senator John Warner came as former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage arrived in Taiwan to gain a better understanding of the latest cross-strait tension, escalated by Taipei’s scrapping of a presidential body tasked with eventual unification with the mainland.
“If a conflict with China were to be aided by inappropriate and wrongful politics generated by the Taiwanese elected officials, I am not entirely sure that this nation would come full force to their rescue,” Senator Warner was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Mr Warner, who heads the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, issued the warning during a committee hearing attended by US military officials responsible for Northeast Asia.
The Republican senator described last week’s decision by Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian to shut down the National Unification Council as “one of those unfortunate incidents that seems to continue to arise”.
Mr Warner said he supported Taiwan’s strengthening of its military in the face of the mainland military expansion, “but at the same time, they’ve got to learn how to … tone down their heated politics”.
However, Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry denied Mr Warner had said that the US might not come to Taiwan’s aid if the island was blamed for spurring a conflict with the mainland.
“After checking, from the beginning to the end, we have found nothing like that,” said ministry spokesman Michel Lu Ching-lung. :loco:
Defence Minister Lee Jye yesterday said in a legislature session that the US had never discussed with Taiwan whether it would come to the island’s aid if it declared formal independence.
He said his ministry had detected no unusual military movements by the mainland side.
Mr Lee pointed out that in the same Senate committee hearing, Admiral William Fallon, head of the US Pacific Command, noted that tensions between the mainland and Taiwan were “significantly reduced” from a year ago.
In the hearing, Admiral Fallon acknowledged that the US was “trying to walk a thin line” in supporting the mainland’s efforts to act as a positive force in the region while also honouring its obligations to defend Taiwan.
Admiral Fallon said Mr Chen’s decision was “not particularly helpful”. But he also noted Beijing’s comparatively “muted response” to Mr Chen’s move - a change, he said, from its previous reactions to developments in Taiwan.
Mr Chen’s announcement last Monday that the council “ceases to function” and its guidelines “cease to apply” triggered concern from the US and protests from Beijing, which sees the act as Mr Chen’s first move towards independence, a step the mainland has warned will lead to war.
Washington later demanded that Taiwan state clearly whether the council had been abolished as this would constitute a breach of Mr Chen’s pledge not to change the cross-strait status quo.
Mr Lu said Taiwan had continued to communicate with the US over the “cessation” of the council and believed that a mutual understanding on the issue would be achieved soon.
Mr Armitage is expected to meet Mr Chen and opposition leader Ma Ying-jeou during his brief stay.
He said yesterday that he had not come to Taiwan with a message from US President George W. Bush, but hoped to gain a better understanding of the reunification council issue.