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U.S. to help beef up Taiwan's defense: AIT chairman

2013/02/01 22:26:30

Taipei, Feb. 1 (CNA) Washington will continue to help Taiwan build strong deterrence capabilities through both high-tech and low-tech solutions, the chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) said Friday during a visit here.

"We are working very closely with Taiwan," Raymond Burghardt said at a media gathering.

Asked about whether the U.S. will sell F-16C/D jet fighters and submarines to Taiwan, however, he said he would not comment on specific sales of weapons.

Meanwhile, Burghardt did not rule out the possibility of the U.S. holding joint military exercises with Taiwan in response to questions on the issue.

He added that "Taiwan has already observed U.S. military exercises sometimes."

The head of the AIT, which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties between the two countries, is on a five-day visit here that will end Saturday.

Burghardt met with President Ma Ying-jeou and several government officials during the visit. He had briefed them about the U.S. government's policy regarding its relationship with Taiwan during U.S. President Barack Obama's second term.

Asked about Washington's invitation to China to participate in the U.S.-led Pacific Rim exercise in 2014, he said the Chinese participation is a small part of the exercise that is completely focused on humanitarian and disaster relief help.

On the issue of the United States' rebalancing policy toward Asia, the chairman said Taiwan is included in the U.S. government's greater attention of Asia.

Amid speculation that the U.S. will use the upcoming talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) to push Taiwan to open up its market to U.S. pork containing the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine, Burghardt said, "the U.S. never said the pork issue was ... forever not an issue."

He also said that the bilateral talks could cover all issues considering further liberalization of the market and that no agenda has been set.

Asked if Washington is now thinking of lobbying Taiwan to drop its ban on ractopamine in pork, Burghardt said only that the U.S. has consistently held the position that all countries should set its food safety measures based on science and in a way consistent with international standards.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs announced earlier in the day that long-stalled talks under the bilateral TIFA will be resumed by the end of March in Taipei.

The ministry made the statement after the two countries agreed to resume the TIFA talks, which have been suspended since July 2007.

(By Elaine Hou and Lee Hsin-Yin)
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