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MOFA defends US absence at defence talks

The China Post--The absence of high-ranking U.S. officials at the ongoing Taiwan-U.S. Defense Industry Conference has nothing to do with the nation's recent handling of a territorial dispute with Japan over the Diaoyutai Islands, Taiwan's Defense Ministry and Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

Deputy Defense Minister Andrew Yang, who is currently visiting the U.S. for the conference, said Monday that he was informed by U.S. authorities of the no-show of U.S. officials and they reassured him that U.S.-Taiwan ties remain warm.

Yang made the comments at a press conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

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

The absences reportedly stemmed from Washington's displeasure over the standoff between Taiwanese Coast Guard vessels and their Japanese counterparts in waters near the island group in late September, according to local media.

Asked to comment on the issue, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Steve Hsia said the absence of U.S. officials at the conference was not related to the government's efforts to protect Taiwanese fishermen during their visit to the Diaoyutais.

”It was because they could not fit the conference into their schedules,” Hsia said, adding that Yang will meet with senior U.S. government officials during his visit there.

Yang to Meet Senior US Officials

The conference, which began on Oct. 1, is held annually to address future U.S. defense cooperation with Taiwan, as well as Taiwan's defense and national security needs and weapons procurement plans.

Diplomatic sources said Yang will head for Washington, D.C. after the conference to meet with senior officials from the U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department said on its website that the conference is a private industry event and not an official event.

”A senior-level State Department official was not available to speak at this event due to scheduling conflicts. However, several State Department representatives are attending,” it said, without identifying them.

”The State Department has regular and robust interactions with Taiwan authorities at various levels. Our channels of communication and our cooperation with Taiwan remain significant, consistent with long-standing U.S. policy,” it said.

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