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US senior official reiterates policy to support Taiwan's defensive needs

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A United States senior official yesterday reiterated Washington's longtime stance on supporting Taiwan in defending itself, ultimately helping Taiwanese people have more confidence in continuing to make progress in cross-strait relations.

Speaking during a telephone conference with media in the Asia Pacific region yesterday evening, Daniel Russel, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said Taiwan is an important partner and friend for the U.S. on a wide range of issues.

“We (the U.S.) value very much the strong, friendly, robust and growing unofficial relations that we enjoy with Taiwan,” said Russel.

The U.S. also focuses on its commitment to help Taiwan in maintaining a “legitimate” defense capability, he added.

The U.S. official continued by saying that Washington welcomes the warming cross-strait ties over the last five years.

“We think that cross-strait relations, by progressing at a pace with which people on both sides are comfortable, contribute directly and significantly to the security of the U.S. and the region,” Russel said.

That is an important goal for cross-strait relations and part of the rationale behind America's strong support for Taiwan's defense needs, he added. Russel said the people of Taiwan “need to have confidence, the confidence that they are secure and the confidence that they are not vulnerable to military coercion and immediate military threat.”

He noted that Beijing could also contribute to cross-strait stability if it is willing to take an approach and implement a military strategy that could “help generate confidence among people in Taiwan that allows progress to continue and expand.”

The U.S. official made the comments in response to a question raised by a Taiwanese reporter during a teleconference on when the U.S. will grant Taiwan the eight diesel submarines Washington promised in 2001 and if Taiwan could join a U.S.-led RIMPAC naval exercise in the near future.

Russel, however, did not give direct answers to the questions, saying only that he has no comment on potential arms sales between Taipei and Washington and the issue of the joint military exercise needs to be answered by the U.S. Department of Defense.

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