AIT head blames cross-strait impasse on China

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AIT Chairman James Moriarty (left) praised President Tsai Ing-wen (right) Wednesday.

AIT Chairman James Moriarty (left) praised President Tsai Ing-wen (right) Wednesday. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (CNA) - The visiting chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) praised President Tsai Ing-wen Wednesday as a "pragmatic and reasonable leader" and said Beijing should take more responsibility for the stalemate in cross-Taiwan Strait relations.

AIT Chairman James Moriarty told CNA that no one in Washington blames Taiwan for the lack of cross-strait dialogue.

"We are encouraged every time we see Taiwan try to reach out to the Mainland, we do think that's an ongoing process. But there has to be a response and understanding," he said when asked to give suggestions on how to resume cross-strait official talks.

"I have found President Tsai to be a very pragmatic and reasonable leader. I think she has tried to reach out to the Mainland, I don't think people in Washington are blaming the lack of dialogue on President Tsai," he added.

He reiterated the U.S. stance in pushing "constructive dialogue across the strait." However, he stressed that Washington will not involve itself as a cross-strait mediator as stipulated in the "Six Assurances."

Under the Six Assurances given to Taiwan in 1982 by then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. pledges not to set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan, not to hold prior consultations with China regarding arms sales to Taiwan, and not to play a mediation role between Taiwan and China.

"Our ability to control that is admittedly limited, and I do think it will depend on much more involvement in Beijing than anything else. We will continue to let them know that we think it is important for peace in the region if there were constructive dialogue across the straits," he said.

He also pointed out that Beijing's efforts to squeeze Taiwan's international space by asking private enterprises to change Taiwan's designation as part of China and barring Taiwan from attending the World Health Assembly (WHA) is "counter-productive" for cross-strait relations.

"It is frankly counterproductive. Can you imagine any Taiwanese today saying this is wise and makes sense? It is just an insult to the people of Taiwan."

He said Taiwan's exclusion from the WHA this year was very disappointing, but he was also encouraged to see more and more countries willing to speak out about the treatment of Taiwan.

The AIT chair also rebutted allegations that the U.S. will use Taiwan as "bargaining chip" in an international geopolitical game with China.

Moriarty is visiting Taiwan mainly to attend the dedication ceremony of the AIT's new office complex in Neihu, Taipei that took place a day earlier.

Commenting on the new building, Moriarty, who took office as AIT chairman in October 2016, said it took a long time to build but described the outcome as "impressive."

Moriarty said the 14,934-square-meter, five-story complex, built at a cost of US$250 million, "is a building which I think every American and every Taiwanese should be proud of."

"It is a real symbol of an incredible solid relationship, and it is a beautiful and a very functional building. I am very satisfied with it," he said.

He also noted that the building is the latest testimony to ever-growing Taiwan-U.S. relations over the years.

Despite the cordial ties, however, Moriarty said that Taiwan's zero-tolerance policy in its import of U.S. meat products is something the U.S. remains concerned about.

The U.S. is calling for a science-based regulatory decision, "not just based on politics, not just based on fear-mongering," he stressed.

The U.S. has long criticized Taiwan's zero-tolerance policy in its imports of U.S. meat products and views Taiwan's ban on ractopamine -- a leanness enhancer -- as a trade barrier.

The dispute has complicated trade talks and led to a five-year gap from 2008-2012, during which bilateral talks under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) were suspended.

In July 2012, Taiwan's Legislative Yuan passed amendments to the food safety act, paving the way for imports of U.S. beef containing ractopamine. The TIFA talks subsequently resumed in March 2013 in Taipei.

Since then, the U.S. has been pushing for Taiwan to accept a maximum residue level for U.S. pork containing ractopamine. (By Joseph Yeh)