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AIT director sees U.S. visa waiver program in Taiwan's future

2012/06/27 22:57:31

Taipei, June 27 (CNA) William Stanton, the director of the Taipei office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), expressed optimism Wednesday that Taiwan will soon be admitted to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, a step he described as positive for both sides.

Stanton noted that the Department of Homeland Security has been reviewing Taiwan's qualifications for admission, and he said he was "extremely optimistic that Taiwan will soon enter the program."

In an address at a luncheon of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei (AmCham), he also said that Taiwan's inclusion in the program will expand the strong business, travel, and cultural ties with peoples of the two sides.

Taiwan was announced as a candidate for the U.S. visa waiver program in late December 2011.

Stanton, who is expected to step down as the Taipei office's director in July, said it was unlikely he would be the one to announce Taiwan's entry to the program, but he said he would "certainly cheer the news from the sidelines."

Meanwhile, Stanton touched on the issue of warming ties in the Taiwan Strait.

The U.S. applauded Taiwan's rapprochement approach with China, proposed by President Ma Ying-jeou to bring peace and stability across the strait, he said, but added that it is "equally important" for Taiwan to strengthen ties with the U.S.

"This means continuing to build our arms and security partnership, as well as fulfilling our commitments under our Taiwan Relations Act (TRA)," he added.

The TRA, enacted in 1979 when Washington decided to sever ties with Taipei, obliges the U.S. to help Taiwan defend itself. Washington has long been a major arms supplier to Taipei.

Security cooperation with the U.S. will also help Taipei manage relations with Beijing, which will contribute to stability in the Taiwan Strait and the region, he said.

Stanton also urged Taiwan to demonstrate a firmer commitment to maintaining a strong defense capability, including an "adequately resourced military," in the face of a military imbalance across the strait.

Meanwhile, he expressed concerns that Taiwan's absence of a realistic commitment to defense budget may affect its goals to transform to a smaller, smarter, more capable, and more professional volunteer force based on innovative and asymmetrical approaches.

(By Elaine Hou)