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Taiwan an avoidable flashpoint in U.S.-China ties: academic

2018/10/31 16:57:26

Susan Thornton (right)

Washington, Oct. 30 (CNA) Taiwan is the most likely flashpoint in relations between the United States and China but such conflict is avoidable if the three sides continue to show patience and have good communication, a former U.S. official said Tuesday.

Susan Thornton, former U.S. acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, made the comments in response to media questions after taking part in a debate titled "Are U.S. and Chinese long-term interests fundamentally incompatible?" held by The Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

Thornton said Taiwan has been the most sensitive issue in U.S.-China relations since the beginning of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries, or even since the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

She said the U.S. and China had effectively managed the problem despite coming close to conflict several times and will continue to manage the issue effectively.

"I am confident we can continue to manage this issue," Thornton said, adding that both sides or all three sides have to continue to be patient and engage in good communication to tackle the issue.

When asked whether conflict over Taiwan in U.S.-China relations can be avoided, Thornton answered: "Of course."

As to whether Taiwan should worry that the U.S. could be a source of instability in the Taiwan Strait, she said that Asian countries have seen U.S. policy as a source of stability and confidence and she hopes Washington will continue to pursue that policy.

Thornton, who retired from the State Department in July after a distinguished 28-year diplomatic career focusing primarily on East and Central Asia, is currently a senior fellow at Yale Law School's Paul Tsai China Center.

(By Rita Cheng and Evelyn Kao)