Skip Global Navigation to Main Content
Skip Breadcrumb Navigation
Press Conference Stephen M. Young Director, American Institute in Taiwan American Cultural Center Taipei, May 8, 2008

Press Conference Stephen M. Young Director, American Institute in Taiwan American Cultural Center Taipei, May 8, 2008

OT0806E | Date: 2008-05-08


DIRECTOR YOUNG: Good morning, everybody, and thank you for coming. I would like also to introduce Charlene Huang, who is working for me today as the translator.

It's nice to see a few of you here today. I thought I'd offer to meet with you because it's such a slow news week. Seriously, two years ago when I arrived, I promised to meet with you regularly, about once every six months. It seemed like this was a good time to do so.

The last several months have been a bonanza for election junkies here in Taiwan. I have enjoyed your coverage, but as a close student of democracy, I want to make a few observations about this process. First of all, I was struck by the passion of the voters. Friends of Taiwan around the world were struck that 58.5% of the voters participated in January's legislative elections, and a full 76% of the voters participated in the presidential elections in March. We in America can only be envious. I was also struck by the seriousness of the campaign. Both candidates engaged in serious discussion of the issues, as did the vice presidential candidates. I found the debates that I was able to watch very interesting. We might even learn something from the way you conduct your debates. There was a good focus on economics. I was struck that both candidates, Frank Hsieh and Ma Ying-jeou, spoke about cross-Strait relations in much the same light.

Then there was the orderliness of the balloting. I visited some polling booths here in Taipei during the presidential election, and AIT had people all over the island visiting polling booths both in January and in March. I was struck by the good civic spirit that I found at these events. There were dedicated volunteers. There was no problem with the voters understanding how to manage the balloting for the referenda. The debate about one-stage or two-stage balloting didn't seem to bother them at all. I was also impressed by the Central Election Commission's rapid posting of results. I was struck by the manner in which the two major parties and the candidates responded to the results by accepting the voters' verdict.

It isn't always this smooth. As I have said, democracy isn't easy. It can oftentimes find itself going in the wrong direction. That's why I'm particularly impressed by what Taiwan has been able to accomplish. This suggests a further maturing of Taiwan's political system. Harvard professor Sam Huntington's theory of democratic consolidation is at work here. I had a chance to study with him 15 years ago when I was a fellow at Harvard. It is true that a lot of young democracies take their time getting to two orderly transitions of government, which was Sam Huntington's standard for democratic consolidation.

In twelve days we will all be celebrating an important milestone in Taiwan's democratic development. I'm just glad to be around to witness it. I was fortunate enough to be here eight years ago as Deputy Director, when it was the DPP's opportunity to try its hand at governing this remarkable island. Now it's the KMT's turn again. Just as Ray Burghardt, who was then the Director, and I were engaged with Chen Shui-bian and his team back in 2000, my able Deputy, Bob Wang, and I are working with Ma Ying-jeou and his team now. We have been talking about America's important interests in Taiwan and the region.

One focus has been on our broad economic agenda, including expanding trade and investment through the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) process. Building upon our robust agricultural trade, we will be continuing our efforts to resolve the beef and pork import issues based on internationally accepted scientific principles.

We have been encouraging improved cross-Strait trade and investment ties and direct links between Taiwan and the PRC. We think that my old friend Vice President-elect Vincent Siew's landmark meeting at Boao with President Hu Jintao was a very good start. We certainly hope that China will seize this opportunity to deal with Taiwan's democratically elected leaders, and improving cross-Strait relations more generally, on the basis of mutual trust and benefit. As I've long said, we firmly believe that America's support for Taiwan's security and self-defense provides an important basis for giving our friends here the confidence to deal with Beijing effectively and without fear of threat or coercion. That includes continuing to make available appropriate defensive weapons. More broadly, it means working with Taiwan on its military modernization and preparedness.

Overall, I feel that the Taiwan Relations Act and decades of engagement give us a good model for continuing to deepen our informal relations across the board. We are working with the new Ma team now to strengthen mutual trust and confidence. I am delighted that former White House chief of staff Andrew Card will be leading a very impressive group out here to represent the American people at Ma Ying-jeou's presidential inauguration. I think he is an excellent choice, because Andrew Card is a close friend and political partner of President Bush and his father President Bush, Sr. I would also note that Mr. Frank Fahrenkopf, the former Republican National Committee chairman under Ronald Reagan, is coming. He is coming as an experienced member of the Republican Party, not because he is the head of the American Gaming Association. The Honorable Kerry Healey, a rising star in Massachusetts politics, fellow Harvard grad along with President-elect Ma, and a good colleague of fellow native of Massachusetts Andrew Card, is also coming.

Chairman of AIT Ray Burghardt and myself will also be on the delegation. I think Mr. Card and his delegation will be excellent representatives of the United States at this great celebration of Taiwan's democracy and the beginning of Ma Ying-jeou's presidency.

As I have noted, we have been in close consultation with President-elect Ma, as well as Vice President-elect Siew, and their team, which includes premier-designate Liu Chao-Hsuan, vice premier designate Paul Chiu, my old friend Su Chi and others. I look forward to seeing Foreign Minister-designate Francisco Ou when he gets back from Guatemala. We look forward to working with Mr. Ma and his team on a positive agenda after May 20.

In view of all of this, and the press of events for the President-elect these days, the two sides have agreed in consultation that Mr. Ma won't be going to the U.S. before the inauguration.

In conclusion, I'd like to note an overnight announcement from Washington that AIT plans to build a new office complex in Taipei, in Neihu. The construction of a new office building has been a dream of mine for a long time, and I am very pleased that it looks like I will be able to witness the first steps of the construction of this new building before my departure as Director of AIT. It will be a fitting symbol of our important informal relations with Taiwan. Our Cultural Section and our Commercial Section upstairs are going to have to move to Neihu, too, and we may have a little trouble persuading them to do that. [Turns to PAO Thomas Hodges.] It's for your own security, Thomas. [laughter]

Thank you, and now I'm ready to take your questions.

MAX HIRSCH, KYODO NEWS: Director Young, thanks for your time and energy today. I'm Max from Japan's Kyodo News. According to Taiwan, U.S. officials for the first time attended the Yushan exercise. Can you confirm for us who attended, what parts of the exercise they attended, whether reports of your riding in an armored personnel carrier are true, and whether the attendance reveals a plan of evacuation and protection of U.S. officials of Taiwan should a crisis occur?

DIRECTOR YOUNG: Thanks, Max, for your question. I will simply say that I was very honored to be asked to participate in the Yushan exercise as an observer, along with a few colleagues of mine from AIT. I frankly don't think this should have been controversial, because, as a matter of fact, the United States is a close partner of Taiwan in a variety of areas of security cooperation, and this was simply a part of that.

It was, correctly as you identified it, a crisis management exercise. Frankly, we believe things like that are good, because you can think through what you would do if a real crisis emerged. Maybe next year we should invite the Burmese junta to participate.

PEGGY CHANG, VOICE OF AMERICA: Director Young, you have said that you have worked with President Chen and President Ma. In your observation, in terms of U.S. and Taiwan relations, what do you think is going to change, and what is not going to change, under Ma's presidency, compared with Chen's presidency? They have different ideas in terms of cross-Strait relations. Thank you.

DIRECTOR YOUNG: Obviously there are differences in the platforms of the two, although I would like to reiterate that both the DPP and the KMT candidates have spoken in very similar terms about their objectives for cross-Strait trade and investment, and also direct flights. In my remarks and those by others before, we certainly encourage the Chinese government to deal directly with the democratically elected leaders of Taiwan, which they chose not to do over the last eight years.

I think the fact that Mr. Ma is going to have a strong majority in the legislature, will help him more effectively to pass legislation.

I do think there will be a lot of continuity on our cooperation on trade and economic issues and our cooperation on security issues. I guess I'll say there is going to be one real difference between this and 2000. The KMT has ruled before, and they'll be able to tap into a lot of experience, as the cabinet that is emerging now suggests.

I think that was a historically unique moment back in 2000, when the DPP for the first time came out of opposition and had to form a government. They didn't have the great reservoir of experience and talent to tap into that Ma Ying-jeou enjoys today. In any case, it's an interesting question and we'll have to keep talking.

ZOE LIN, TAIWAN TELEVISION: As you indicated earlier, Ma Ying-jeou decided not to go to the United States before his inauguration, but we have heard repeated requests in a lot of situations that Ma Ying-jeou would like to have paid this visit. So what has happened here to come up with this final decision, and why hasn't the Department of State given approval for him to go?

DIRECTOR YOUNG: It wasn't the U.S. Department of State. I, representing America, had a conversation with President-elect Ma, and it was reached by mutual agreement that the time really wasn't sufficient for him to make that visit, and frankly it wasn't necessary, because we're engaged at a number of levels, including with the visit of this delegation led by Andrew Card.

PETER ENAV, AP: Can you tell us, when the decision was made, or when the decision was communicated to President Ma that he wouldn't be going to the United States, to which he agreed, and whether, given your long diplomatic experience, you were able to discern any disappointment on his part, or anger?

DIRECTOR YOUNG: As an experienced diplomat, I'm just going to say I have just given you exactly what occurred, and I think I shouldn't really elaborate on it any more.

JANE LEE, ICRT (INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY RADIO TAIWAN): Just a follow-up on Ma's making a visit to the U.S.: do you expect to successfully to be able to make such a visit in the near future after the inauguration or by the end of this year? My second question is, over the past eight years, the arms procurement package has been caught in Taiwan's legislative gridlock, so how does the U.S. see Taiwan's defense needs as having changed since eight years ago, and will the U.S. still recommend passage of the same package, the arms package, or is there going to be a reassessment?

DIRECTOR YOUNG: Thank you for coming from ICRT. I think after the inauguration, if President Ma asks to transit the United States, we would apply the same principles we have always applied to such requests, that is, the convenience, comfort, safety and dignity of the traveler.

As to the question about arms purchases, it's a complicated one, and I've said a few things about it today and at the Amcham speech on the 29th of April. I would say that some of the weapons systems that were on the list approved by President Bush in 2001 and had been approved before I arrived here a little over two years ago. Or funded, should I say, funded by the Taiwan side. We were a bit frustrated I guess with some of the difficulties of getting a consensus in the legislature to move on other systems. Last year in June and again in December, with a surprising amount of bipartisanship, the legislature passed more robust defense budgets, first for calendar year 2007 and now for the year 2008. As I said before, there is a lot more involved than just plugging new weapons systems. There is a lot of what we call software programs designed to modernize Taiwan's defensive needs. Those have also been funded. I expect that that focus will continue under the new government and with the new legislature.

RALPH JENNINGS, REUTERS: A couple of brief questions on Ma Ying-jeou going to the United States, or not going to the United States - was pressure from China a factor? Second question: based on your conversation with Ma recently, do you have any indications that shortly after May 20 you will see some kind of arms packages; any sort of arms will be sold to Taiwan, including F-16s? Thanks.

DIRECTOR YOUNG: I have already described the process of consultation between the U.S. and President-elect Ma, and there was no Chinese element in that. This was between the United States and Taiwan.

On F-16s - You are asking me to speculate about things that might happen in the future, and all I will say in a generic sense is that under the Taiwan Relations Act, we are committed to providing defensive articles and services to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability. We have a robust security relationship with Taiwan, and arms sales are an element of that long-standing relationship. If Taiwan formally requests additional F-16 aircraft, it will be reviewed based on Taiwan's defensive requirements as well as our overall arms transfer policies, with appropriate consultation with Congress.

CHIANG CHING-YI, PUBLIC TV: Mr. Ambassador, I have a follow-up question concerning the Yushan exercises. Some critics say it is improper for the United States to participate in these exercises, but do you think it is important to invite the U.S. side to observe this exercise? Would you suggest that the next President continue to offer the United States delegate the chance to observe this exercise. My final question would be, do you think Taiwan has enough - I mean, based on your observation -- Taiwan has enough weaponry to protect herself?

DIRECTOR YOUNG: Generically, we have a very good and effective cooperative relationship with Taiwan on the variety of issues required to modernize military ability to defend the island. A lot goes into that. I think that being an observer at certain exercises and learning something about Taiwan's capabilities and be able to offer some advice if asked is a normal part of that relationship.

I think the initiative by President Chen to seek to raise defense spending to 3% of GDP was a wise one, and one that I hope and expect that the new legislature and the next president will continue. In the process of modernizing the military, both in terms of software and hardware, it's a constantly ongoing process. So there is never a static answer to say that they've got enough and they can stop. You have to keep looking at the future, which is the same for all militaries around the world. We have been talking about this with President-elect Ma and his advisers, and we will continue to do so including with the new defense minister, when he comes on board.

DMITRI BRUYAS, CHINA POST: I'd like to know if President Chen has expressed the desire so far to visit the United States after he steps down, and will he be able to do so?

DIRECTOR YOUNG: After the 20th of May, President Chen will be a private citizen. If he applies for a visa, we will adjudicate the case just as we would that of any other private citizen.

RACHEL CHAN, CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY: Director Young, Taiwan has high hopes for closer and tighter relations with the US. Will there be any concrete action or breakthrough to serve as an indicator for Taiwan-U.S. relations healing up such as restoring the high-level dialogue between national security councils or signing of a bilateral investment agreement or a even an FTA? Thank you.

DIRECTOR YOUNG: I think the framework that would have applied over the last several decades for informal relations continues to be both very effective, and it has obviously some flexibility to adjust to the circumstances. On the economic relationship, we certainly hope to carry forward with the TIFA process, and other efforts to strengthen our bilateral trade and investment. That would include continuing to explore the possibility of a bilateral trade and investment agreement and possibly a bilateral tax avoidance agreement or a government procurement agreement.

As I said in my American Chamber speech, it is not to say that an FTA is out of the question in the long run, but if you look at the politics of the American Congress today, it is unlikely that there would be new negotiations of FTAs by the United States at the end of the Bush administration, given the rather skeptical view the Congress is taking on passing those that have already been initialed. I'd like to say that the Bush administration hopes to continue to work on a variety of initiatives with the new government of President Ma Ying-jeou. As you know we have an election process going on ourselves, so at some point this year or the beginning of next year our focus will be very much on the next president of the United States and what that person's policies toward this area of the world will be. As I've said before, we are watching one transition which is almost complete, and that is to a new government here and we will go through a transition to a new government in the United States. Discussion of the strength of our relationship with Taiwan, and Asian policy more broadly, will be a natural part of that.

JENNY HSU, TAIPEI TIMES: Good morning. Recently Taiwan had several suspects, or highly wanted people, who have escaped to the States. What do you think the United States and Taiwan can do to beef up the judicial mutual assistance program to bring these people to justice or at least bring them to a trial? Secondly, in your earlier speech you talked about [how] you had a consultation with the Ma team on U.S. beef and pork imports. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because I am sure a lot of hog farmers are probably very nervous about it.

DIRECTOR YOUNG: I think you're talking about Mr. Ching Chi-jiu, who is very much in the news today. He seems appropriately named Mr. "Gold." [Ed.: the Chinese meaning of Mr. Ching's surname.] All I can say is that we've seen reports about his possible whereabouts. As this is a law-enforcement matter we would have to refer you to the Department of Justice, or to the Taiwan authorities for further information about the case. Since 2002, we've had a mutual legal assistance agreement [MLAA] between the American Institute in Taiwan and TECRO. It establishes a mechanism by which U.S. and Taiwan law enforcement authorities cooperate in obtaining and sharing relevant information and evidence. There is no extradition provision in the MLAA.

As to increasing the import of beef and pork to Taiwan we have had a good dialogue with the current administration and have begun to discuss it with some of the key players who will be managing these issues in the Ma administration. All we are asking is that Taiwan apply the same scientific principles that have been embraced on international agreements and in international organizations like the OIE and Codex [Alimentarius] that would apply to imports of these products to Taiwan from the United States. These are the same standards that we apply to products consumed in the United States. More than 300 million Americans rest assured that there is no safety problem with the American pork and beef that we produce.

TIM CULPAN, BLOOMBERG: Mr. Young, back to the issue of Ma, can you please explain why it was not necessary, in your words, for Mr. Ma to visit the United States prior to his inauguration. If necessity is the standard you are using for a trip by President-elect or a sitting president, could you explain what circumstances may be necessary for someone to visit the United States, and maybe when, in the future, that necessity can occur? Thank you.

DIRECTOR YOUNG: I think I've really said precisely what I meant to say and I'll stand by that.

I would like to thank Charlene Huang for doing such an excellent job, and I think we covered more territory in the last hour than we usually can, because she's such an effective interpreter. Thank you everyone. See you at the inauguration.

(End Transcript)


Director's Speeches