President Ma, government welcome US arms package
By Ko Shu-ling and Jenny W. Hsu
Sunday, Jan 31, 2010, Page 1
The Taiwanese government yesterday welcomed news that Washington has moved forward with an arms package for Taiwan, with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) saying it would help advance cross-strait relations and boost his administration’s confidence in dealing with Beijing.
“These are weapons we have wanted for a long time. Most of them are defensive,” Ma said yesterday. “The weapons will give us more confidence in protecting Taiwan and help us forge ahead with cross-strait ties. The more confidence we have and the safer we feel, the more interactions we will have with mainland China.”
Ma told reporters on the way back to Taipei yesterday from his visit to Latin America that the US government notified Congress of the US$6.4 billion arms sales about nine hours before his plane left Los Angeles. Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) said the news did not come as a surprise because Ma was notified in advance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which had received word from the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) in Los Angeles.
“We feel gratified,” Wang said. “It shows that Taiwan-US relations are smooth and the mutual trust and interactions are sound.”
It also indicated that the fallout over the US beef controversy was limited to trade, he said, adding that the Ma administration would continue to deal with the US beef matter carefully.
Wang said that AIT Director Raymond Burghardt had said on different occasions during Ma’s stopovers in the US that Taiwan-US relations are “excellent” and in “great shape.”
Speaking about Taiwan-US relations over the past 20 months, Ma said they were headed in the right direction because the cross-strait detente helped improve ties with the US. He said mutual trust is stable because he delivers what he promises and his words are consistent with his actions. The interactions are frequent in various areas including the economy, politics and military affairs, he said.
At a separate setting yesterday, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said many senior officials in the administration of US President Barack Obama had publicly expressed the view that Washington would follow the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) by selling defensive weapons to Taiwan.
Sources close to the foreign ministry said the notification shows that the current row with the US over bone-in beef imports has had no affect on overall Taiwan-US ties as the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had warned.
When asked about the ministry’s response to China’s protest pf the US’ decision, Chen refused to make any direct comments. He said the TRA is a US domestic law and the White House was abiding by the law by forwarding the notification to Congress.
The AIT said the US notified both Taiwan and China before the notification was sent forward. However, “we did not consult the PRC [People’s Republic of China] about the sale,” AIT press officer Christopher Kavanagh said.
Kavanagh said he did not have information of when both sides were notified or if they were informed simultaneously.
“The Chinese government has long opposed US arms sale to Taiwan. The US is committed to building a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship with China,” he said.
The decision to sell Taiwan defensive arms is based upon the government’s evaluation of Taiwan’s defensive needs, he said, and is consistent with the US “one China” policy based on the Three Joint-Communiques and the TRA.
Furthermore, the arms sale “contributes to maintaining the security and the stability across the Taiwan Strait,” he said.