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U.S. will maintain ties with Taiwan, pivot toward Asia: scholars

2012/04/18 21:57:21

Taipei, April 18 (CNA) The United States will not abandon Taiwan and in fact is determined to "pivot" toward Asia, a group of American scholars said Wednesday.

"The U.S. has vital interests and continued access of all the nations in Asia," said Wallace Gregson, former assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, at a seminar in Taipei.

The idea of the U.S. abandoning Taiwan is a "non-issue," said Bonnie Glaser, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies that organized the seminar in collaboration with Tamkang University.

However, Taipei and Washington should do more to strengthen bilateral ties, she suggested.

"This is a two way street. We both have to work on it," Glaser said.

Recently, there has been some discussion in American academic circles on whether, given the rise of China, the U.S. should retract its support of Taiwan to resolve its tensions with China.

But scholars at the seminar agreed that the Asia Pacific will continue to be the center of geopolitics and the U.S. will not leave Taiwan behind.

"The U.S. is not leaving Asia," said Abe Denmark, a senior project director at the Washington-based National Bureau of Asian Research.

Earlier this year, U.S. President Barack Obama released a military strategic guidance document that called for a "pivot" from the Middle East to Asia.

Although Taiwan is not specifically mentioned in the document, it is implied that despite the difficult financial environment, the U.S. is determined to maintain its presence in Asia, Denmark said.

"I think it's safe to say that the U.S. will continue to provide defense articles to Taiwan, which is something Taiwan can depend upon to go forward," he said.

Meanwhile, a Taiwanese university professor suggested that the U.S. and Taiwan start talks similar to the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

The dialogue was set up in 2009 and so far represents the highest-level bilateral forum between the U.S. and China.

The relations between the U.S. and Taiwan are far more complicated and connected than before, said Alexander Huang of Tamkang University.

He suggested that dialogue at a Cabinet-to-Cabinet or assistant secretary level could put a wide range of issues on the negotiation table at the same time.

For years, Washington has been pressing Taipei to open its market to U.S. beef containing residues of ractopamine, a livestock feed additive allowed in the U.S. but banned in Taiwan.

Talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), a platform established for trade dialogue between the U.S. and Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties, have been stalled since 2007 due to the beef controversy.

(By Nancy Liu)