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Taipei mayor holds closed-door meeting with U.S. officials

2019/03/20 14:45:57

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲, front, left) and former AIT Chairman Richard Bush (right)

Washington, March 19 (CNA) Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) held a closed-door meeting with U.S. officials in Washington on Tuesday in which he emphasized the strong partnership and shared values between the two countries.

"The United States is still the most important friend of Taiwan," Ko said following the two-hour meeting with officials from the Department of State, Department of Defense, and National Security Council at the Eisenhower Executive Office in the White House.

According to Ko, he also told the U.S. side that democracy and freedom are the core values of Taiwan and that the relationship between the two countries has been characterized by mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual assistance.

U.S. Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Hanscom Smith, John J. Norris Jr., managing director of the Washington Office of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), and Daniel K. Delk, deputy director of the U.S. State Department's Office of Taiwan Coordination, took part in the meeting.

On Wednesday, AIT in Taiwan posted a photo on Twitter issued by the U.S. State Department of Smith and Ko during their meeting accompanied by a tweet saying that the two were discussing how to further advance U.S.-Taiwan relations.

The encounter came on the second stop of the Taipei mayor's nine-day trip to the U.S., which many see as an attempt by the popular Ko to establish foreign policy credentials ahead of a possible bid for the presidency in early 2020.

The mayor has been criticized for being too dismissive of U.S.-Taiwan relations and appeared to be trying to put them in a more positive light after having previously described the relationship as transactional, with Taiwan nothing more than "a product on a shelf."

He has also been rebuked for his seemingly conciliatory attitude toward China based on his view of Taiwan-China relations that "the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are part of one family."

That issue came up earlier Tuesday when he met with representatives of Washington think tanks, including the Brookings Institution and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Answering questions from reporters about the U.S. response to his stance in the wake of a meeting with former AIT Chairman Richard Bush at the Brookings Institution, Ko replied that the "one family" idea was a friendly gesture toward China.

"No matter what, we need to beef up Taiwan's economy and national defense. There is no need to irritate China or confront it," he said.

At a dinner banquet later Tuesday hosed by Taiwan's representative to the U.S. Stanley Kao (高碩泰) at the Twin Oaks Estate, Ko stressed that democracy, freedom, openness and diversity are Taiwan's core values.

"The U.S. shares those values with Taiwan and that's why the two countries walk firmly side by side," he said.

Ko visited New York before arriving in Washington and still has visits planned to Atlanta and Boston before returning to Taiwan on March 24.

(By Flor Wang, Liang Pei-chi, Chiang Chin-yeh and Elaine Hou)
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