U.S. makes clear stance against Taiwan flag ceremony at Twin Oaks

01/08/2015 03:15 PM
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Taipei, Jan. 8 (CNA) The U.S. representative office in Taiwan reiterated Thursday that the United States is "disappointed" in the flag-raising ceremony held by Taiwanese diplomats on New Year's Day in Washington, D.C. and called for Taiwan to ensure the controversial move is not repeated.

"It is our hope that Taiwan will demonstrate the priority it puts on the U.S.-Taiwan relationship by ensuring that these kinds of things do not happen again," said American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) spokesman Mark Zimmer of the event in which the Republic of China flag was raised at Twin Oaks Estate, the former residence of ROC ambassadors to the U.S., for the first time since Taipei and Washington broke official ties in 1979.

Fielding questions from local media, Zimmer reiterated that the U.S. was not notified in advance of the ceremony.

"The ties between the U.S. and Taiwan remain strong," he said, but added that "we were disappointed with this action and we hope things like these won't happen again in the future."

The U.S. has raised its "serious concerns" with senior Taiwanese authorities in Taipei and Washington, said the spokesman of the de facto embassy in the absence of bilateral diplomatic ties.

Zimmer's comments were the first clear indication the United States does not want Taiwan to hold another ceremony like the one on New Year's Day, which featured Republic of China military uniforms and the national anthem, although the U.S. Government had already said it was "disappointed" over the act.

The Republic of China's ownership of Twin Oaks is a touchy issue in trilateral Taiwan-U.S.-China relations. It was not handed over to the People's Republic of China government even when Washington recognized Beijing as the sole authority of China, and it still belongs to the Taiwanese government.

The flag raising ceremony highlighted the contentious piece of property and the complicated issue of sovereignty over Taiwan, angering Beijing and concerning Washington.

"We are resolutely opposed to the so-called flag-raising ceremony staged by Taiwan's office in the U.S. and have lodged solemn representations with the American side," said Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry, at a regular news conference on Monday.

The U.S. State Department said its worries lie in the fact that Twin Oaks is considered a "representative compound" rather than a private home by Washington.

"It's inconsistent with the spirit of our policy, and it's violated our longstanding understanding on the conduct of our unofficial relations," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in Washington at a press briefing on Tuesday.

She had said one day earlier that "nothing has changed as it relates to our relationship," but at Tuesday's conference declined to get into specifics when asked if there would be "consequences."

On Wednesday, Psaki said simply that "we continue to be in discussions with Taiwan authorities on this matter, but I don't have any updates on that," adding that she believed the flag has been taken down.

She also said that she would not make a prediction of whether this incident will cause new restrictions on the usage of Twin Oaks.

"We continue to have an important cultural relationship, a relationship that I think both sides enjoy," she said.

In Taipei Wednesday, representative to the U.S. Shen Lyushun admitted to lawmakers that the U.S. authorities did not know about the flag-raising ceremony in advance, emphasizing that it was an act of "goodwill" not to inform them because that would make it easier for Washington to explain if Beijing lodged a complaint.

Shen said "senior U.S. officials" showed understanding afterward.

Deputy Foreign Minister Andrew Kao said that Taiwan will step up its communications with the U.S. over the matter.

Located in northwest Washington D.C., Twin Oaks was the official residence of ROC ambassadors to the U.S. between 1937 and 1978.

For most of the time since, only cultural and social events have been allowed there, but as mutual trust between Taiwan and the U.S. improved, Taiwan's representative office was able to celebrate the ROC's National Day again at the venue in 2011 for the first time in 32 years.

In 2014, the national anthem of the ROC was sung at a National Day reception at Twin Oaks and the country's flag was flown on the same flagpole, according to Shen.

(By Elaine Hou)ENDITEM/WH

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