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Visiting U.S. official lauds ties with Taiwan

2014/03/26 21:03:24

Susan Stevenson (right), deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

Taipei, March 26 (CNA) A visiting official from the United States State Department on Wednesday lauded the relationship between Taiwan and the U.S. and described Taiwan as "a vibrant democracy."

"The relationship is good and we have very good cooperation" on economics and trade, Susan Stevenson, deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told CNA in an interview.

Stevenson is in Taiwan to participate in the 2014 Fulbright East Asia Pacific Meeting, which kicked off earlier in the day in Taipei.

"We were very excited to hold it in Taiwan for the first time," she said, referring to the three-day conference that has brought together about 50 officials from U.S. missions in the Asia-Pacific region and Fulbright commissions.

When asked to describe current ties between Taipei and Washington, she said "there's a close partnership between the U.S. and Taiwan, and that's part of why we got the Fulbright conference here to reflect that."

Organized by the Foundation for Scholarly Exchange, the conference will discuss a variety of issues related to the administration of the Fulbright academic exchange program.

Asked about the U.S.'s attitude toward Taiwan's desire to participate in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade bloc, Stevenson reiterated Washington's stance, saying that "the U.S. welcomes Taiwan's interest in joining TPP."

A U.S.-led Asia-Pacific trade bloc, the TPP is being negotiated by the U.S. and 11 other countries -- Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico and Brunei.

Stevenson landed in Taiwan on Sunday evening, about the time when student-led protesters broke into the Executive Yuan to expand their protest against a trade-in-services agreement Taiwan signed with China last June.

The group was dispersed early Monday. Their action came after protesters, mostly students, occupied the Legislature's main chamber on March 18.

Asked about the issue, Stevenson said she has been following the protests since last week, when she began her visit to Asia.

"We recognize that Taiwan is a vibrant democracy," she said, adding that the students have the right to express their views.

Stevenson also met with officials from Taiwan's ministries of education and foreign affairs. Issues discussed during those meetings included the issue of setting up joint campuses in Taiwan's free economic pilot zones.

She is scheduled to wrap up her visit to Taiwan Thursday.

(By Elaine Hou)