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Taiwan talking to U.S. on visa waiver program: minister

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Foreign Minister Timothy Yang said yesterday that Taiwan and the United States are discussing the possibility of including Taiwan in a U.S. visa waiver program, but he gave no specific timetable.

Yang made the remarks in response to reporters' questions after attending an international seminar titled “Taipei-Washington-Beijing Relations under the Ma and Obama Administrations” that was held in Taipei by the non-government Foundation on Asia-Pacific Peace Studies and the Pacific Forum of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a U.S. think tank.

“Both Taiwan and the U.S. understand the importance of the visa waiver program issue, which are already under discussion by the two sides. However, I cannot tell you a certain timetable,” Yang said.

Asked whether Taiwan is concerned about U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to China scheduled for mid-November, the foreign minister said he is confident that Washington-Taipei relations will not be affected by the trip.

With the great improvements in cross-Taiwan Strait relations, Yang said at the international seminar, there are five facets of the new face of U.S.-Taiwan relations in the current context.

They include working on the inclusion of Taiwan in the U.S. visa waiver program, enhancement of bilateral security cooperation, economic and investment ties, and Taiwan's seeking of America's strong support for Taiwan's meaningful participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and International Civil Aviation Organization, according to Yang.

Moreover, it would be of mutual benefit to both Taipei and Washington to expand cooperation on issues of export control and counter-weapons proliferation, as the two sides have worked effectively together on the implementation of the container security initiative, which entails a system of checking for illegal goods shipping containers that leave Kaohsiung Port in southern Taiwan.

Speaking on the trilateral relations between the U.S., Taiwan and China, Chao Chun-shan, chairman of the Foundation on Asia Pacific Peace Studies, said in his opening remarks that this is probably the first time since 1949 that the three parties had shared a path of mutual trust and cooperation.

If such a relationship continues to develop, there might be a chance for trilateral relations to reach a win-win-win situation, at which time Washington, Beijing and Taipei should seize the moment.

Ralph A. Cossa, president of the CSIS Pacific Forum, echoed Chao's view, saying that there is an opportunity to move things forward because the leaderships of all three are dedicated towards moving the relationship forward without a zero-sum mentality.

“The relations between the U.S., Taiwan and China are not and should not be a zero-sum game, and the U.S. very much wants good relations both with China and Taiwan,” Cossa said.

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