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June 23, 2017

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US supports cross-strait dialogue, vows to meet Taiwan's security needs

WASHINGTON -- The United States is committed to helping Taiwan meet its legitimate security needs and strongly supports and encourages continued dialogue across the Taiwan Strait, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel said Wednesday.

Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Russel also said that key elements of President Ma Ying-jeou's East China Sea peace initiative match the principles of the U.S. strategy and the U.S. effort, namely respect for international law and peaceful resolution of disputes in the region.

Russel noted that over the past five years, there has been a change in the quality and intensity of cross-strait dialogue.

"There has been a stabilizing dynamic in the relationship between Taiwan and the mainland, something that we very much support and encourage," he said. "And we hope to see continued progress toward reconciliation across the straits."

At the same time, however, the military buildup on the side of China is unabated, which results in a sense of insecurity that prompts Taiwan to seek additional arms and security assistance, he said.

He reaffirmed Washington's security commitment toward Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act.

"Our policy is that arms sales and our contribution to Taiwan's security contributes to cross-strait stability, and we are committed to helping to meet Taiwan's legitimate security needs," he said.

In less than five years, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has notified a "formidable" amount of about US$10 billion or US$11 billion worth of arms sales to Taiwan, he said.

Russel made the remarks in response to a question raised by Rep. Steve Chabot, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, with regard to the U.S.'s arms sales policy toward Taiwan.

Chabot expressed concern over Washington's continued denial of Taiwan's request to buy advanced F-16 C/D fighters and plans by the U.S. Air Force to defund the combat avionics programmed extension suite (CAPES) program, which could affect upgrades to Taiwan's existing F-16 A/B fleet.

In response to a question raised by Rep. Matt Salmon, Russel commended Taiwan's East China Sea Peace Initiative but said also that it is "unfortunate" the initiative "did not fall on fertile soil" when it was announced.

"There are a number of very important elements to that initiative," he said.

The East China Sea Peace Initiative proposed by President Ma in August 2012 calls on all parties in East China Sea territorial disputes to exercise self-restraint, not escalate tensions, shelve controversies, maintain dialogue and respect international law.

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