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American official deems Taiwan partner in U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy

2018/07/19 17:32:31

Randall Schriver, the United States assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs

Washington, July 18 (CNA) Randall Schriver, the United States assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific affairs, said Wednesday that Taiwan is a partner in the promotion of freedom in the Indo-Pacific region and can make valuable contributions.

Speaking at a seminar on Opportunities and Challenges of Cross-Strait Relations, Schriver said U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has laid out a free and open Indo-Pacific strategy.

"It's not anti-anybody, it's not counter-anybody but rather it's a positive affirmative strategy to promote international law," Schriver said.

In his speech, Schriver expounded on the U.S.' relations with both Taiwan and China under the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, and cited recent statements made by U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis at Shangri-La Dialogue and during a visit to Beijing.

From a defense perspective, the strategy aims to free countries in the region from pressure and coercion, Schriver said. The U.S. wants leaders of its partners and nations in the region to have the confidence that they can make decisions without undue pressure or coercion, he said.

"We do believe Taiwan is a partner in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific and can make valuable contributions," Schriver said.

Taiwan plays an important role in the U.S.' promotion of a free and open Indo-Pacific strategy, he added.

In particular, Taiwan has been a very strong partner in the U.S.' efforts to keep pressure on North Korea, Schriver said. Taiwan is a reliable partner when the U.S. imposes heavy sanctions against North Korea, he said.

Schriver also said U.S.-China relations are more competitive than cooperative and that the two countries have divergent views on two main issues, namely the South China Sea and Taiwan.

During Mattis' recent visit to China, he made clear Washington's stance on the two issues, Schriver said.

On the Taiwan issue, Beijing has pointed to what it said was the U.S.' violation of the "one China" principle, Schriver said.

Mattis, however, has told China that "we have a consistent policy across several administrations, which is based on our Taiwan Relations Act, Six Assurances and other foundational documents," Schriver said. "We will continue to honor those and implement those in a consistent way."

Schriver also said the U.S. has noticed an increase in China's pressure tactics against Taiwan.

"We note the stripping of diplomatic allies; we note the further isolation from international organizations; we see military pressure -- bomber flights around the island that have been reported, other exercises designed to send a message to Taiwan and to the region," Schriver said.

He said the U.S.' response is to stay consistent to its policy, documents, and guidelines through the TRA and work with Taiwan so that Taiwan can have the space to make decisions about its future free of such coercion.

According to the TRA, Washington has an obligation to make available defensive weapons for Taiwan's self-defense and to maintain its own capacity to help defend Taiwan, Schriver added.

Turning to the South China Sea issue, Schriver said the U.S. made a decision to disinvite China from the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) this year mainly due to China's decision to pursue militarization in the South China Sea.

"We feel that was a breaking of Xi Jinping's pledge made in 2015 in the Rose Garden of the White House," Schriver said.

Asked whether Taiwan was likely to be invited to join the RIMPAC, Schriver said he did not know whether Taiwan would be invited to participate or to observe.

(By Rita Cheng and Evelyn Kao)