AIT reiterates US' neutrality after Taiwan's Gou announces presidential bid

  463
AIT Chairman James Moriarty shakes hands with Foxconn CEO Terry Gou

AIT Chairman James Moriarty shakes hands with Foxconn CEO Terry Gou (By Central News Agency)

The United States will work with whoever wins Taiwan's 2020 presidential election, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty reiterated Thursday, a day after Taiwanese tycoon Terry Gou (郭台銘) announced his intention to compete in the opposition Kuomintang's (KMT) presidential primary.

"We will work with any administration in Taiwan because we believe we share important interests," Moriarty told CNA in an exclusive interview, when asked to comment on Gou's decision.

Moriarty said he had an inkling that the Taiwanese tycoon was considering a presidential bid when Gou asked him a particular question at a seminar in Taipei on Monday.

Moriarty was one of the speakers at the conference to mark the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), while Gou was in the audience.

In the question-and answer period, Gou asked Moriarty to clarify whether the current U.S. delegation in Taipei, led by former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, was here to attend the TRA 40th anniversary events or to endorse the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the Jan. 11, 2020 presidential election.

"I kind of wonder why you're asking that question?" Moriarty said to Gou in a light tone, before going on to give the assurance that the U.S. was not endorsing any particular party.

"We would respect whatever choice the Taiwanese people make," Moriarty said. "I hope I'm being clear. We do not plan to get involved in the Taiwan election. That is not the goal of the U.S. The U.S.' goal is to have a free and fair process that accurately reflects the will of the people and then it could partner with whatever administration is sitting here in Taipei in 2020."

Asked Thursday whether he had already figured out that Gou was considering a presidential bid, Moriarty said his answer "kind of spoke for itself."

"I think you accurately detected the tone of irony in my voice," he said.

Moriarty said the U.S. takes no sides in Taiwan elections and is happy to work with any president, as the two sides share democratic values.

The 68-year-old Gou, one of the richest tycoons in Taiwan, is the founder and chairman of Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., the world's largest multinational contract manufacturer of electronics.

Meanwhile, commenting on Taiwan's ongoing fight against a disinformation campaign launched mainly by China, Moriarty said it is not an issue faced only by Taiwan, but also by the U.S. and all other democracies.

The U.S. and Taiwan regularly share information in this regard "at the highest levels," as both governments have common concerns about attempts to influence elections, he said.

"And we are working together with the Taiwan authorities on a regular basis, behind the scenes, to try and pass on information and the best practices," Moriarty said.

Civil groups and businesses in Taiwan also have a responsibility to detect and fight against disinformation, he said.

Moriarty is in Taiwan as part of a U.S. delegation, led by Ryan, that is attending a series of events this week to mark the 40th anniversary of the TRA.

The TRA was signed in April 1979 by then U.S. President Jimmy Carter, a few months after the U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.

It was drafted to serve as a legal basis for unofficial relations between the U.S. and Taiwan and enshrine in law the U.S' commitment to helping Taiwan maintain its self-defense capability.

The AIT, meanwhile, was launched in 1979 to serve as the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties.