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U.S. defense secretary reaffirms commitment to Taiwan

2017/06/03 19:09:47

Singapore, June 3 (CNA) U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to providing Taiwan with defensive weapons, during an Asia security dialogue held in Singapore Saturday.

His comments were welcomed by Taiwan, but sparked opposition from China.

Mattis said the U.S. remains committed to strengthening cooperation with its allies in the region and will also continue to engage closely with its partners in the region in an effort to address security challenges in the Asia-Pacific, during a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue being held by the International Institute for Strategic Studies from June 2-4.

The annual defense summit brings together ministers and delegates from over 50 countries to discuss security challenges and opportunities.

Speaking about Taiwan, Mattis said that "the Department of Defense remains steadfastly committed to working with Taiwan and with its democratic government" to provide it with necessary defensive articles, which is consistent with the U.S. obligation set out in the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).

The TRA was enacted in 1979 by the U.S. Congress to maintain commercial, cultural and other unofficial relations between the U.S. and Taiwan after Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. The act also requires the U.S. "to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character."

Mattis' remarks triggered a question about whether there is any change to the U.S.'s "one China" policy, which was asked by a participant from China who felt it was unusual that the U.S. expressed its intention to strengthen defense links with Taiwan on such an occasion.

In response, Mattis said the U.S. is committed to its "one China" policy and there has been no adjustment to this.

"We believe in a peaceful resolution of the situation between China and Taiwan," he said. "That's where we have stood for some years and the one China policy holds."

Commenting on Mattis' remarks, Andrew Yang (楊念祖), a Taiwanese scholar on defense affairs and a former defense minister, said his remarks sent a message that "Taiwan is still an important regional security partner." Yang was one of the participants in the security conference.

In Taipei, Presidential Office spokesman Sidney Lin (林鶴明) expressed gratitude for the U.S. government's commitment to the TRA and welcomed the strengthening of exchanges between Taiwan and the U.S. in all areas.

At a news conference held on Saturday in Singapore, Lt. Gen. He Lei (何雷), deputy president of China's PLA Academy of Military Science, said the Chinese government is firmly opposed to any U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. He is leading a Chinese delegation to the security conference in Singapore.

(By Elaine Hou, Huang Tzu-chiang and Claudia Liu)
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