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June 27, 2017

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US lauds cross-strait ties, reaffirms position on Taiwan

WASHINGTON--A senior U.S. official commended Taipei and Beijing for "historic progress" made in improving relations across the Taiwan Strait Friday and emphasized that Washington's policy on Taiwan has not changed, despite a recent "mischaracterization" by Beijing.

Senior Director for Asian Affairs of the National Security Council Evan Medeiros said that the U.S. hopes progress between China and Taiwan will continue "in ways acceptable to both sides," adding that a peaceful resolution to the "Taiwan question" is an "abiding interest" to the United States.

Cross-strait tensions have been lowered and ties have improved since President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008. Dialogue between the two sides, which was suspended after 1998, has resumed and gained momentum, with the focus put on economic cooperation. The first government-to-government talks were held earlier this year.

Medeiros' comments came at a seminar organized by the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, to mark the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the United States and China.

In his prepared remark, Medeiros said that the issue of Taiwan has been one of the "perennial difficulties" in U.S.-China relations, but insisted that the position of the U.S. has not changed.

Medeiros decried a statement released by the Chinese foreign ministry after a meeting on March 24 between Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping that seemed to indicate a change in U.S. position on the issue of Taiwan.

He called it a "willful mischaracterization" and reaffirmed that the U.S. stance on Taiwan remains unchanged.

The report posted on the Chinese foreign ministry website highlighted the two leaders' discussions on Taiwan and quoted Obama as saying, "on the Taiwan issue and Tibet-related issues, the U.S. side respects China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. This stance remains unchanged."

Medeiros said the Chinese foreign ministry had mischaracterized the U.S. position on Taiwan as if it had changed, adding that "It has not."

He said such actions by the Chinese are "unwelcome," and they only serve to "foster mistrust" in the U.S.-China relations.

Neither are they helpful to China's own stated goal of promoting unification with Taiwan, he added.

"China should focus on winning the hearts and the minds of the people of Taiwan as opposed to making them insecure about U.S. policy as if somehow we have changed our position on Taiwan and are saying things differently in meetings with President Xi than we do publicly, which we aren't," he said.

"So in this context, I think it's important to pay attention to the fact that not only is 2014 the 35th anniversary of the U.S.-China relationship, it's also the 35th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act, which is U.S. law, and (to) which we remain firmly committed, along with the six assurances," Medeiros said.

The assurances were made in 1982 by then-President Ronald Reagan. They include not setting a date for ending U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and not pressuring Taiwan into negotiations with China.

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