US envoy to brief Taiwan on Obama-Hu talks

TAIPEI, January 23, 2011 (AFP) - The top de facto US envoy to Taiwan will brief Taipei this week on talks between President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, officials said Sunday.

Raymond F. Burghardt, the chairman of the Board of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), was due to arrive in Taipei late Sunday, according to the US mission in Taiwan.

"The purpose of his visit is to brief Taiwan about the meeting between Obama and Hu," Taiwan's foreign ministry spokesman James Chang told AFP.

Taiwanese authorities carefully watched Hu's first state visit to the US, fearing the island's national interest could be damaged as Washington seeks to  improve ties with Beijing -- which claims Taiwan as its own.

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou last week voiced concerns about Hu's US trip to a Washington-based think tank, Ma's office said in a statement.

Burghardt is scheduled to meet Ma on Tuesday.

Obama last week stated Washington's continued support for the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), a move seen in Taipei as a guarantee of continued US support.

The US is Taiwan's leading arms supplier, despite switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, and it is bound by the TRA to provide the island with the means to defend itself.

Despite improving ties with China since Ma took office in 2008, Taiwan says it needs to bolster its defences.

China opposes any arms sales to Taiwan, which it considers a part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, even though the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war and have been governed separately since.