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AIT Director Stephen Young - May 3, 2007, Press Conference

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  I'd like to, first of all, welcome all of you here today and thank you for coming.  I think it's a very appropriate day for you to be with us because I understand today is World Press Freedom Day. 

It is also my honor to note that the Taiwan media was rated the most free, the most open, by Freedom House, a very respected American and international human rights organization this week, and also 33rd overall in the world.  So Taiwan's media has much to be proud of today.

I'm going to be giving an opening statement that will go through a few things on my mind, but then we'll leave plenty of time for questions.  It seems that each time I come before you, I want to give you a sense of what I think the occasion is.  First of all, it's been six months since the last time I sat down and met with you all last October.  Secondly, I was in Washington just a few weeks ago and had very thorough consultations.  Third, I think that we're in a very interesting political season here in Taiwan so I thought it would be useful to discuss that with you.

Lastly, I'm going to be joining a charity climb up Taipei 101 on Saturday and I wanted to see you today when I was full of breath rather than at the end of that hike when you tried last time to ask me difficult political questions.  So the deal here is that you can ask me anything today but not on Saturday morning.  (Laughter)

There's a key theme that I'd like to get across here today.  And it is as follows:  the United States has got great respect for Taiwan's democratic achievement and will work with whomever Taiwan's political system and voters choose to be the next president of this place.  We have a unique relationship with Taiwan, particularly in terms of our security commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act.

In that context, when we feel our core interests are involved, we will, on occasion, speak out -- humbly, respectfully and in the spirit of partnership.

U.S.- Taiwan Relations

I have now been here for over a year as the Director of AIT.  And, as I calculate, I've actually spent now, over nine years in total on Taiwan, in five separate stays.

I continue to believe that U.S.-Taiwan ties are historic and durable.  Let's just look at some of the basic indicators.  We enjoyed a sixty billion dollar two-way trade last year.  We issued seventeen and a half thousand student visas last year and the total number of Taiwan students in the United States is now roughly twenty eight thousand.  I would like to point out, in that respect, that a young woman named Hung Wan-ting, a native of Taipei, is due to graduate as the first female Taiwan graduate of the United States Military Academy in a couple of weeks.

We have a strong and engaged business community here represented both by the Am Cham and by AIT.

There are countless personal ties between our two societies.  For example, we have twelve young U.S. Fulbright scholars teaching English to elementary students in Yi-lan County this year.

We have very strong security ties which I'll talk about later.

I noticed -- again in today's media -- that a man named Tsai Bae-Chun, a naturalist here in Taiwan, will soon have a photo exhibition at one of America's premier museums, the United States Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

I'd like to mention three individuals who I think personify the connection between our two societies rather well.  The first is Morris Chang, the founder and CEO of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).  I think that after getting a terrific education in the United States, Mr. Chang's decision to come back to Taiwan in the 1980's, and found one of the most successful hi-tech companies in the history of this island, is a great example of the close ties we enjoy.

The second person I'd like to mention is Dr. Lee Yuan-tze, I believe a native of Tainan, who went to the United States and got a great education, became a noted professor and scholar who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in the 1980's, but then came back to Taiwan to become the Director for nearly a decade, or I guess a full decade, at the Academia Sinica, thereby turning that into a first class research and policy institution in Taiwan.

I guess I've got a Tainan theme here because the last person I'd like to mention is a terrific athlete who has taken his baseball skills to the United States and become a leading pitcher in the American major league, and that is Wang Chien-ming. 

I just have one small complaint about Mr. Wang.  And that is, because I am a very big Boston Red Sox fan, as you can see from my tie here, I just wish he hadn't gone to play for the New York Yankees.  It's not for nothing that we call them the Evil Empire.  (Laughter)

By the way, let's all be nice to Irene (the AIT interpreter) today, because she gets nervous with all the cameras.  But she does a wonderful job with her translation.  When you ask me questions after my statement, if you would make them brief enough for her to catch the translation, or pause and let her translate.  She's a little nervous, so be polite to her.  You can be impolite to me, but be polite to her.  OK?


Democracy is probably Taiwan's greatest achievement of the last twenty years.  There has been remarkable public participation, with some sixty five percent of the voters turning out for last December's mayoral elections and over eighty percent expected for the presidential elections next year.

Taiwan's free press, as I've mentioned, is buttressed by civic organizations, an emerging rule of law, and is setting a shining example to all of its neighbors and the world.

The United States is one of your greatest admirers in this democratic endeavor, and we recognize that it takes time.  After all, we've been at it for over two hundred years, and we're still working on our own democratic system.

We are impressed, as I've said, by the enthusiasm with which Taiwan's citizens embrace the democratic process, particularly as they are now in the selection of presidential and legislative candidates.  The American Institute in Taiwan follows this campaign closely because Americans are interested and would like to understand it better.  But let me make quite clear, we have no favorites.  We will work with whomever is elected, just as we did in 2000.  And we will respectfully share our sense of core American interests with Taiwan's leaders just as we always have.  We do that privately all the time, and on occasion when we feel it's necessary, we will also speak publicly.

The Status Quo

Perhaps the most important area where this comes into play is over our abiding interest in maintaining the peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.  This is not only, I think, a key Taiwan concern, but ours as well.  Thus, whenever we feel one side or the other of the Taiwan Strait is taking actions to unilaterally change the status quo, we will respectfully, humbly, but clearly speak out.  That is because we are convinced that the maintenance of the status quo over the last fifty plus years has given the people of Taiwan the ability to chart their own course, flourish economically, accomplish a remarkably peaceful democratic transition that continues to evolve today and is a wonder to all of the friends of Taiwan around the world.

This status quo also allows Taiwan to look to its own security in a complicated and rapidly changing regional environment.  Anything that changes the status quo, it seems to us, could therefore threaten the enormous achievement that this peace and stability has made possible over the years.  This is not a one-sided policy.  If you read the testimony of Deputy Secretary John Negroponte to the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) on Tuesday of this week, you'll see that he expresses great concern over the Chinese military buildup and missile deployments and sees them as threatening Taiwan. 

I would like to draw your attention to the full text of his appearance, which deals with China but speaks about Taiwan a number of times, and we have a number of copies of that over on the table for you after this press conference is over.  It is also on the Web.  But it's in English only.  Sorry.

Defense Budget

In that regard, I need to tell you that, during my recent consultations in the District of Columbia, in Washington, the toughest question I was asked, in the Pentagon, the White House, in the State Department and on Capitol Hill, had to do with the Taiwan defense budget.  The question went something like this:  Why hasn't Taiwan acted to pass an appropriate defense budget which provides funding for weapons systems offered by President Bush over six years ago?  I found this very difficult to answer.  I would tell them that Taiwan's leaders across the political spectrum have told me they support passage of this bill, and yet there's been no action.  The latest explanation has centered around a controversy regarding the Central Election Commission, but over the past fourteen months since I arrived here as Director, it has been a series of domestic excuses for Taiwan's Legislative Yuan to explain away the inability to address this current problem.  We believe that Taiwan is not responding appropriately to this steady buildup of the military across the Taiwan Strait.   It seems to me that this is a fundamental security problem for Taiwan.  But it unfortunately also causes Taiwan's friends in the United States to question whether our security partner here is serious about maintaining a credible defense. 

Offensive Missiles

In this connection, I also want to briefly raise another issue of great importance to U.S.-Taiwan security relations.  We have a broad range of cooperative programs designed to enhance Taiwan's military modernization.  For example, we have very effective programs in training, in critical infrastructure protection, in hardening of military and political sites, and in sustainability.

In that regard, a large group of U.S. military experts came to Taiwan recently to observe the Hankuang exercise.  This team was led by retired Admiral Dennis Blair, who was heading it up for the fifth straight time. 

The results from this exercise were judged by Admiral Blair and his team as pretty good, and we appreciated the scenario laid out for 2012 by Defense Minister Lee Jye.  But I need to address some inaccurate press accounts that emerged following that exercise. There were claims that the United States Government approved of the use of long-range offensive missiles during the exercise, and that they even offered a name for these systems.  I want to say categorically here, on behalf of the U.S. Government, that these stories are inaccurate. 

In fact, I'm going to read from a press conference last week in Washington by National Security Council Senior Asian Director Dennis Wilder:  "We think that developing defensive capabilities is the right thing to do.  We think that offensive capabilities on either side of the Strait are destabilizing and therefore not in the interest of peace and security.  So when you ask me [Dennis Wilder] whether I am for offensive missiles, I am not for offensive missiles on the Chinese side of the Strait, and I am not for offensive missiles on the Taiwan side of the Strait.  But appropriate defense capabilities are certainly the right of the people of Taiwan." 

Economic Ties

I'd like to conclude by saying a few words about the economic relationship, because I think that this is a very "good news" story.   Our bilateral trade relationship is strong and getting stronger.  I have mentioned the $60-billion-dollar two-way trade from last year.  We have a very active American Chamber with over 800 members that is closely engaged, as is AIT, with Taiwan economic decision-makers to further improve our economic and trade relations.  Deputy US Trade Representative Karan Bhatia reinvigorated our trade relationship last May when he visited Taiwan to hold a round of TIFA talks.  We've been working closely with our Taiwan counterparts to build on that dialogue since then.  And we are working with Taiwan on a variety of specifics, including the Consultative Committee on Agriculture (CCA), an agreement which we recently concluded with the Council of Agriculture and which should hold its first session here in Taiwan this fall. 

We also have a very vigorous dialogue with Taiwan on intellectual property rights protection.  We're working on three agreements with Taiwan: the first is a bilateral investment agreement; the second is a bilateral tax agreement; and the third is a bilateral government procurement agreement.  We are expecting to hold the next round of TIFA talks this summer hosted by Ambassador Bhatia.  We are heavily involved with Taiwan economically, not as any favor, but because Taiwan's world-class economy cannot be ignored, by us or by any of the other major economic powers in the Asian-Pacific region or around the world. 

So in sum, there's a lot going on, much of it good.  We have some challenges, but we intend to remain deeply engaged in all aspects of the broad U.S.-Taiwan relationship.  And now for the fun part:  I'm ready to take your questions. 

Questions and Answers - Missiles and Missile Defense

QUESTION:  I'm Peter Enav from AP [Associated Press].  Your reference to Dennis Wilder's comments on the U.S. opposition to the deployment of offensive missiles by Taiwan - am I to construe that as meaning that should the Taiwanese authorities approach the United States for help with procuring guidance components and other equipment that might be necessary to complete the deployment of those missiles, the United States would not be willing to make that gesture?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  I will answer more generally for you, Peter. We are, and have been engaged in a dialogue about this and other subjects with Taiwan and we will continue, but as I suggested from Mr. Wilder's remarks, the United States feels that the focus should be on defensive, and not on offensive, weapons.

QUESTION:  Kao Ling-yun (United Evening News).  According to what you said earlier, which means the United States government does not support Taiwan develop surface-to-surface missiles, is that right? 

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  I said offensive long-range missiles.  They can come in a variety of names.  Of course, surface-to-surface missiles is one of them, but I think the broader open-ended aspect is any kind of long-range, offensive missiles.

But I'd like to expand on that just a little bit because, in fact, what we think Taiwan should be placing its emphasis on, is missile defense.  It is no question that over the last decade China has deployed a large number of short-range missiles that threaten Taiwan.  It was in that context that the Bush Administration earlier on in April 2001 offered to provide Patriot III anti-missile batteries to Taiwan.  I am quite frankly puzzled by the reticence of the Taiwan political system and the Legislature to fund the current defense budget that is still being considered, including appropriate monies for the purchase of the Patriot III missile battery.  Because I look at Japan, which faces a similar missile threat from North Korea, or Israel which faces obvious threats in the Middle East and I see that each of them has procured and is continuing to procure more Patriot III Missile batteries to deal with a threat that is no greater than the threat Taiwan faces.  And I think the Legislature should put aside its partisan differences and act on the Patriot III system as it should also act on the P3C anti-submarine aircraft and the whole question of submarines.

QUESTION:  Hi, this is Zoei Lin, of TTV, and I have a question about, I just wonder what are the next steps the U.S. government might take in light of the situation that there is failure (unintelligible) among the Legislative Yuan because there is some speculation that there might be a launch of an over-review of the policy in Washington DC.  Is that a possibility?  Thanks.

INTERPRETER:  I'm sorry.  I didn't hear the second part of the question?

QUESTION:  The second part of the question is that, is there a possibility that the U.S. is going to launch an over-review of the U.S.-Taiwan policy?  Thanks.

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Thank you for the question.  The fact is that the United States is constantly looking at our defense relationship with Taiwan and the dynamic of what the threat is across the Strait and, as you know, people from Secretary of Defense Gates on down have been talking about our concern over that, to the question of what appropriate steps Taiwan should take to look towards its defense.  And while there is no plan to have a comprehensive review, since we work in that sense on the dynamics already, I think that the two points that you want to look at is the change of government that will occur here in Taiwan next spring and the change of government that will take place in the United States in January of 2009, which will certainly bring a new President to each our societies.  It is my great hope that we can maintain the very robust nature of our military engagement through those two political transitions.  And, to balance this discussion, I'd like to point out that it has long been the American position, enunciated by Presidents and others, and most recently by Mr. Negroponte, that any resolution of the differences across the Taiwan Strait should be managed peacefully and that the People's Republic of China should have a direct dialogue with the democratically-elected leaders of Taiwan.

QUESTION:  [Liberty Times reporter Mr. Wang, question in Chinese]

INTERPRETER:  [in English] You just mentioned that somebody told you that now the military budget bill is bundled with the Central Election Committee Commission… I would like to know, where do you hear it from?  Is it from the opposition party or is it from the ruling party?  And in your opinion, which side should take responsibility for this?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Well, I hear it from you in the media for one thing, and pretty much from everybody I speak to.  But my message is the same to both sides of the political spectrum, and that is, put aside for this particular moment, your partisan differences and pass a budget that you all say you want to see effected.  So I think that everyone has a responsibility.  As a friend of Taiwan's, it's frustrating to me to hear again and again all parties trying to say that the problem is with the other side, when I think that collective responsibility should be at work here given the stakes involved.

MODERATOR:  Next question, please.

U.S.-Japan Relations and Taiwan

QUESTION:  I'm from Reuters.  The papers today said that Taiwan was not mentioned in the last consultation between the U.S. and Japan, whereas in 2005 it was in the joint statement.  Can you confirm that and say why it was not mentioned?  Thanks.

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  It is my understanding that that is correct and that this is not the first time it hasn't been mentioned.  In fact, other than the inaugural session of the 2+2 several years ago it has not been mentioned.  I think that there's nothing special in that. But I also think it's quite clear that our military and diplomatic relationship with Japan concerns security in northeast Asia generally.  I do think that the primary focus right now in our bilateral security relationship with Japan continues to be North Korea's nuclear program and the instability that that causes.  As a second, but also important subject, the whole question of the rise of China and the growth of Chinese military spending and what it means for us - we two allies - Japan and the United States.

MODERATOR:  Next question, please.  You there, in the black, in the third row.

U.S. "Pressure" on Taiwan

QUESTION:  Hi, Tsai Ting I, with Asia Times and LA Times.  The message you conveyed in your last press conference seemed to backfire in a way that several legislators got upset and decided not to review the budget, so what kind of influence you want to share this time?  And, my second question is you used "humbly" a couple of times in your brief statement but observers have argued that Washington is micromanaging Taiwan.  What's your reaction on this statement?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Well that's a fair question.  As I tried to suggest in my opening statement, we speak out when we feel we need to.  I think we're constantly talking about questions like how do you maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and how do you look to your own defense.  I don't actually think what I'm called upon to do as the American representative is micromanaging.  But I would say that this is a unique relationship, given the fact that the United States is not only the best but really the only security partner Taiwan has. 

What was I trying to do in October and did it backfire on me?  I don't think it backfired, because what I was trying to was to draw attention to the stakes involved and I would to thank all of you, because I think the coverage of my remarks began something of a debate among some circles about just what the stakes were, both in terms of Taiwan's defense and in terms of the vitality of U.S.-Taiwan relations. 

As to the reaction from certain quarters here, I think it just underscores the point I made earlier that there are some people who would rather place blame on inaction than explain why their part in not passing this bill has been so visible.  But my conversations with people on the blue and the green side - and remember I'm "red, white, and blue" myself - have suggested to me that they continue to be caught up in a contradiction where on the one hand they say this defense budget needs to be passed -- frankly at this point the entire 2007 budget needs to be passed -- and yet they find political excuses not to act.  I hope that I won't be one of those excuses, because I think this is too important for that type of fingerpointing.

MODERATOR:  We have time for one more question.  I'm sorry there are so many questions.  There may be time for a couple more.  Why don't we start with you over here and then we'll take one more. 

Taiwan FTA

QUESTION:  Chiu Yu-tzu of BNA from Washington, DC.  You just mentioned that both sides are working on free trade agreements and I would like to know have you ever made it clear about this stance of the U.S. government on both sides' FTA, because Taiwan recently just stood up an office of trade negotiation.  So I would like to know the stance of the U.S. government.  Thank you.

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  The United States government is quite aware of Taiwan's interest in an FTA.  I think we've made our position fairly clear as well.  But basically what we face is that in less than two months the trade promotion which Congress has granted to the executive branch expires.  Without extension by the Congress of that authority the administration would not be in a position to open up FTA negotiations with anybody, including Taiwan.  As I think you're well aware, there is a discussion going on between the Democratic Congress and the Republican administration about the possibility of extending fast track authority or trade promotion authority.  But until such time as they act, we're going to focus our attention on the TIFA process, which is actually very vital and which is not only improving our overall bilateral trade relationship, but could be seen as building blocks for an FTA at some future date. 

In that regard, I'd like to add that some of my Taiwan friends have expressed a certain amount of anxiety over the recent signing of an FTA with South Korea.  I'd like to say a few things on that.  First of all, Taiwan's not alone.  Japan during the visit last week in Washington of Prime Minister Abe also raised their concern about the potential impact of this FTA Japan's market access to the United States. 

So we'll have a dialogue with all of our trade partners about the implications of the South Korean FTA for our trade relationships with them, and that includes Taiwan.  I'd also like to point out that the FTA we initialed a couple of weeks ago - well, actually, the beginning of April - with South Korea has not been ratified either by the United States Congress or by the South Korean legislature.  Until that time, this agreement will not be in effect.  As I follow the debate in Washington right now, there is a strong interest on the part of some members of the Congress to negotiate some labor-related agreements that would apply to such FTA's before they're even willing to take a look at the agreement with South Korea.  There's also been some concern about negotiating environmental clauses to such FTA's before either the agreement with South Korea or Peru will be considered by our Congress.  So my message to my Taiwan counterparts has been:  "we've got some time here."  In fact, my sense is that the earliest the Congress might take this South Korean FTA up would be in the autumn in October.  In the interim we have a process -- the TIFA process -- which will allow us to look at market access questions along with the other range of trade and investment issues that we are interested in.  

MODERATOR:  Another question, please.  Yes, you, please. 

Four No's and the U.S.

QUESTION:  I'm Jewel from Taipei Times.  The DPP right now is holding its presidential primary, and the four major presidential candidates have said that they won't continue President Chen Shui-bian's "four no's, one without" pledge and I'm wondering whether if it is a great concern to the U.S. government in terms of dealing with U.S. and Taiwan relations and how will the U.S. government react to the change?  Thank you.

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  I was expecting that question.  We, as I suggested earlier, are fascinated by the Taiwan political process and following it as interested observers.  I have met with all of the candidates and will continue to have contacts with them and we look forward to meeting the DPP candidate and the KMT candidate once their parties have respectively formalized their selection.  This is part of the electoral process and all of the candidates will be pressed to explain their position on a variety of issues.  As I suggested early in my remarks, we will look forward to working with whomever the Taiwan people elect. 

I'd like to set the record straight here because I was the Deputy Director in 2000 and I remember quite well our dialogue with candidate and then President-elect Chen Shui-bian.  As President Chen also understands well, there was never some sort of dictation or insistence that this or that or the other thing needed to be part of his inaugural address or his policy.  Respectfully and humbly, we spoke with President-elect Chen about our core interests and the management of U.S.-Taiwan relations, and President Chen made his own decision as to how he would discuss cross-Strait relations in his May 20, 2000, inaugural address.  We'll do it again next year. 

MODERATOR:  Another question.  You in the pink, please.

QUESTION: Sean Lin, United Daily News.  You just mentioned - the US government has asked President Chen to stick to his "Four Nos" promise.  But I think that President Chen has taken several policies which the U.S. government does not support.  Like his so-called "Four Wants."  So, I'm just wondering, does the U.S. government feel frustrated with this situation?

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Well, putting aside the question of whether organizations can collectively feel frustrated, I would like to rather suggest that the United States has a very good channel of communication with President Chen and other members of the administration.  We talk about a variety of issues with him and his government, including the Premier and many other officials.  We very much appreciated his clarification in mid-March, at the American Chamber's "Hsieh nien fan" evening speech, that his commitments to the United States government and to President Bush remained fully intact and effective.  I think that that dialogue continues, and has been fairly effective at keeping understanding between us clear at a time when certainly it is a political season, and there are a lot of points of view being expressed about the whole variety of issues affecting the Taiwan political system and the Taiwan society.

This is what good friends do amongst themselves.  We will continue to work with the Chen administration until the end of its term in office, and we will look forward to working with the next president in the same respectful but very interested sense of engagement.

I see that I'm almost out of my allotted three glasses of water, so I think we really are going to have to make this the last question.  But since I know that you're all very interested in this, and since you had to come here earlier than me, I'd like to inform you that the Boston Red Sox beat the Oakland A's 6 to 4 in Boston today, and the game between the New York Yankees and whoever it was they were playing was rained out.  It was Texas - the Texas Rangers.  It never rains in Texas.  God must not be on the Yankees' side.  One last question.

QUESTION:  Gavin Phipps, ICRT.  Do either you or the U.S. government have any statement or comments about this continuing succession of - sort of pseudo-official meetings between the main opposition and the Chinese Communist Party - where we're hearing that supposed trade agreements are being penned - peace agreements are being penned.  Nobody really knows what's going on in these meetings because they've never actually told anyone.

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Thank you, I've heard you broadcasting for a long time and finally seen who you are.  When are you going to ask me back to appear on Rick Monday's show?  Well, our position is that we think dialogue across the Strait is, in general, healthy.  We have no objections when members of Taiwan society or political groups travel across the Strait to talk with a variety of actors.  In fact, as we've made quite clear, we think greater interaction between Taiwan and the PRC is healthy for both sides, and that includes the expansion of economic, trade and investment relations.

But, as Deputy Secretary Negroponte stressed just a couple of days ago, we strongly believe that the PRC government should deal as well with the democratically elected leaders of Taiwan: in particular, I think, with issues which normally would require that kind of more formal interaction.  It seems that this should be in both sides' interests.

MODERATOR:  All right, well, I'm sorry we weren't to take everybody's questions, but I thank you all very much for your attention.  For those of you who have a little time, you're welcome to stick around and enjoy a simple meal that we would offer you here.  Thank you, Director Young.

DIRECTOR YOUNG:  Everybody, I'd like to thank you.  I can also welcome you to come to Taipei 101 the day after tomorrow, but we definitely cannot ask policy questions.

(End Transcript)



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- The Future of Political, Economic and Security Relations with China (Testimony of Deputy Secretary John D Negroponte, May 1, 2007)

Director's Speeches