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Top US officials no-show in ongoing defense industry talks

By Joseph Yeh--No senior officials from the United States Department of State and Department of Defense (DOD) will be joining the annual U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference currently held in Pennsylvania, local media reported yesterday.

It is reportedly the first time that U.S. officials from the two American government departments will be absent from the yearly bilateral military exchange platform since its debut year in 2002, local media said.

President of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council Rupert Hammond-Chambers, the chief organizer of the conference, told Taiwanese media yesterday that Assistant Secretary of the Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs under the DOD Mark Lippert, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kin Moy were originally scheduled to attend the conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

But the two decided to cancel their plans to join due to “scheduling difficulties,” he said.

According to a Chinese-language United Evening News report yesterday, the last-minute cancellation was meant to show that Washington is “upset” over the recent standoff between Taiwanese fishing boats and Japanese coast guards near the disputed Diaoyutai Islands.

But the same newspaper also quoted military and diplomatic sources as saying that the schedule change has nothing to do with the ongoing Diaoyutais row.

Military sources said that the annual conference is dominated by Republicans, and it is not a surprise that the Democratic Obama administration decided not to send its officials to the event given the sensitive timing of the upcoming U.S. presidential election.

Diplomatic sources said that U.S.-Taiwan relations have been on cordial terms for the past years, and Washington has made positive responses over President Ma Ying-jeou's East China Sea Peace Initiative.

The yearly event, attended by Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) officials, was launched to address Washington's defense cooperation with Taipei.

The event is also reportedly to be attended by many American defense contractors with the purpose of promoting arms sales to Taiwan.

This year, the Taiwanese delegation will be led by Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Yang (楊念祖).

The conference for this year is scheduled to focus on innovative military tactics and capabilities, and will examine how Taiwan can implement such innovations.

It will also address Taiwan's defense policy under President Ma Ying-jeou's second term; discussions will also be held on the challenges related to the U.S.-China-Taiwan trilateral political environment; furthermore, members of the conference will also review opportunities for U.S.-Taiwan collaboration on defense against cyber threats, according to the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council website.

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