US denies concerns over Taiwan-China ties

TAIPEI, March  8, 2011 (AFP) - The US is positive about Taiwan's ever-closer economic relationship with China and rejects concerns that the cosy ties are not in Washington's interests, its de facto envoy to Taipei said Tuesday.

William Stanton, the director of the American Institute in Taiwan, said Washington has welcomed the increased dialogue between the island and mainland since President Ma Ying-jeou came to power in 2008.

"Now, some observers believe the United States is uncomfortable with improved cross-Strait ties, that we feel threatened, or nervous, or left out," Stanton said while addressing the 20th anniversary of Taiwan's quasi-official Straits Exchange Foundation.

"Let me tell you categorically that this is not the case."

The foundation has been authorised by its government to play a key role in negotiations between Taiwan and its former bitter rival China, due to the lack of official contact.

"First, we are not nervous about improving cross-Strait ties because Taiwan is a vibrant, thriving democracy whose citizens embrace the privilege and responsibility of participatory government."

Closer links between Taiwan and China are good for the region and for the United States, he said.

"In a world beset by uncertainty, upheaval and potential flashpoints -- just look at the headlines from the Middle East and the Korean peninsula -- a peaceful and stable Taiwan Strait is, frankly speaking, a godsend."

The US diplomat especially welcomed the sweeping Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement signed by Taiwan and China last year.

The trade pact has been characterised as the boldest step yet towards reconciliation between the former rivals, who split in 1949 after a civil war. Beijing still views Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification.

Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang party has hailed the agreement, saying it will bolster the island's economy, but the anti-China Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its allies claim it will undermine its de facto independence.