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Pentagon says no change in U.S. policy on arms sales to Taiwan

2011/01/12 10:39:50

Washington, Jan. 11 (CNA) The U.S. Department of Defensereaffirmed on Tuesday that U.S. policy toward China is based on threejoint communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act, which requiresWashington to sell Taiwan defensive weapons.

The Pentagon was responding to a comment made by U.S. Secretaryof Defense Robert Gates in Beijing on Tuesday that he believes U.S.arms sales to Taiwan may evolve into less of a hot-button issue inits relations with China.

Responding to a Central News Agency reporter's question about thesignificance of Gates' statement, a Pentagon spokesman said: "If youread the transcript, then you would know that our policy remainsunchanged."

In a roundtable discussion with reporters in Beijing, Gates saidChinese officials did not directly threaten to suspendmilitary-to-military contacts if the United States sold weapons toTaiwan again, but it was clear that they considered such salesagainst their core interests.

China suspended all military-to-military contacts with Americalast year after it sold a package of defensive weapons to Taiwan.Gates is visiting China this week, in part, to restart thosecontacts, according to the American Forces Press Service.

Gates said he made it clear to his Chinese counterparts thatWashington's policy toward China and Taiwan had not changed.

"First of all, we do have a one-China policy. We do consider thepolicy to be based on the three joint communiques -- I always add'and the Taiwan Relations Act,'" he said.

The Three Communiques were signed in 1972, 1979 and 1982, and theTaiwan Relations Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1979 afterthe Washington severed formal relations with Taipei.

Stressing that the Taiwan Relations Act was not policy but a law,Gates said it required the United States to provide Taiwan withdefensive weapons and "to maintain the capacity of the United Statesto resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that wouldjeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of thepeople on Taiwan."

Gates noted, however, that the United States did not supportindependence for Taiwan and took into account China's feelings on theissue.

"Under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama,we have been certainly cognizant of Chinese sensitivities, and Ibelieve the decisions that have been made have focused on defensivecapabilities."

Gates told Chinese leaders that the United States was not goingto change its policies in the near future.

"But over time, if the environment changed and if therelationship between China and Taiwan continued to improve, and thesecurity environment for Taiwan changed, then perhaps that wouldcreate the conditions for re-examining all of this," he said.

"But that would be an evolutionary and long-term process, itseems to me. I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon.

"So they made their point and I made mine," he said.

(By Zep Hu and Sofia Wu)