U.S. will fulfill its commitments to Taiwan's defense: Pompeo

10/10/2020 05:28 PM
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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. CNA file photo
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. CNA file photo

Washington, Oct. 9 (CNA) U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Friday that the U.S. will "fulfill (its) commitments" to Taiwan, amid rising calls on the American right for the U.S. to explicitly commit to defending Taiwan in the event that it is attacked by China.

Pompeo's remarks came after the Financial Times released a video earlier this week titled "Will China and the U.S. go to war over Taiwan?," which described a "growing debate" in Washington over whether it was time to end the country's "strategic ambiguity" on the defense of Taiwan.

Asked about the issue by conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt on Friday, Pompeo said the current U.S. administration has been "relentless" in delivering on its commitments to Taiwan, but stopped short of clarifying the U.S. position.

"There's the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), there's a set of understandings that have been in place for quite some time, and we have made sure to fulfill those commitments," Pompeo said, citing weapons sales and the U.S. military's maintenance of freedom of navigation around Taiwan as examples.

"We recognize that this is a point of conflict with the Chinese Communist Party. We don't want that. We want peace. But we are going to make sure we live up to all the obligations we have to Taiwan," he added.

Pompeo also refused to be drawn on the topic during an interview with Japan's Nikkei Asian Review on Tuesday.

Asked if the U.S. is prepared to respond if China attacks Taiwan, Pompeo said the U.S. is doing everything it can to reduce tension in the region, but said it also recognizes that "appeasement is not the answer."

The questions came as several prominent U.S. conservatives have spoken out in recent months in favor of making a clear commitment to Taiwan's defense, which they argue would reduce uncertainties that could potentially lead to war.

In a September article in Foreign Affairs magazine, veteran U.S. diplomat Richard Haass argued that that the decades-old policy of strategic ambiguity has run its course and that the U.S. needs to state explicitly that it will respond to any Chinese use of force against Taiwan.

At a foreign policy forum hosted by the Hudson Institute thinktank on Wednesday, Republican Senator Tom Cotton likewise called for an "explicit and unambiguous" commitment to defend Taiwan against a potential Chinese invasion.

With Taiwanese identity and anti-China sentiment on the rise in Taiwan, Beijing understands that its window of opportunity is closing, which raises the possibility of military conflict, Cotton said.

However, if the U.S. makes a clear commitment to uphold the territorial integrity of Taiwan, China would have no choice but to show restraint, he said.

According to Cotton, such a move would not require changing the TRA or the "one-China policy," but would simply be a matter of clarifying the government's position and would achieve the goal of maintaining peace in the region.

The TRA was enacted in 1979 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."

(By Stacy Hsu and Matthew Mazzetta)

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