Taiwan Could be Less Hot-Button Issue in Future, Gates Says

BEIJING, Jan. 11, 2011 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates believes that U.S. arms sales to Tai­wan may evolve into a less hot-but­ton issue in U.S.-China rela­tions.
The sec­re­tary expressed his opin­ion about Tai­wan dur­ing a round­table dis­cus­sion with reporters here today.

The Unit­ed States sold defen­sive weapons to Tai­wan last year, and the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na sus­pend­ed all mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary con­tacts with Amer­i­ca in response. Gates is here this week, in part, to re-start those con­tacts.

Chi­nese offi­cials, Gates said, did­n’t say direct­ly that they would again sus­pend mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary con­tacts if the Unit­ed States sold weapons to Tai­wan again, but it was clear that they con­sid­er such sales against their core inter­ests.

Gates, who worked in the White House when Pres­i­dent Richard M. Nixon made his his­toric trip to Chi­na in 1972, said he made the Amer­i­can pol­i­cy clear to his Chi­nese coun­ter­parts. “First of all, we do have a One Chi­na Pol­i­cy. We do con­sid­er the pol­i­cy to be based on the three Joint Com­mu­niqués and –- I always add –- the Tai­wan Rela­tions Act,” he said.

The Three Com­mu­niqués were signed in 1972, 1979 and 1982.

Con­gress passed the Tai­wan Rela­tions Act in 1979, and it is a law and not a pol­i­cy, Gates said. The law requires the Unit­ed States to pro­vide Tai­wan with defen­sive weapons and “to main­tain the capac­i­ty of the Unit­ed States to resist any resort to force or oth­er forms of coer­cion that would jeop­ar­dize the secu­ri­ty, or the social or eco­nom­ic sys­tem, of the peo­ple on Tai­wan.”

Gates stressed that the Unit­ed States does not sup­port inde­pen­dence for Tai­wan. He said both Pres­i­dent George W. Bush and Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma “have been cer­tain­ly cog­nizant of Chi­nese sen­si­tiv­i­ties and I believe the deci­sions that have been made have focused on defen­sive capa­bil­i­ties.”

Gates told Chi­nese lead­ers that the Unit­ed States is not going to change its poli­cies.

“But over time, if the envi­ron­ment changed and if the rela­tion­ship between Chi­na and Tai­wan con­tin­ued to improve, and the secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment for Tai­wan changed, then per­haps that would cre­ate the con­di­tions for re-exam­in­ing all of this,” the sec­re­tary said. “But that would be an evo­lu­tion­ary and long-term process, it seems to me. I don’t think it’s going to hap­pen any­time soon.

“They made their point and I made mine,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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