A senior US State Department official on Wednesday called on China to allow Taiwan to "play a full role" in international organisations in response to initiatives taken by President Ma Ying-jeou's government to ease cross-strait tensions. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Thomas Christensen said the US hoped that the Ma government's policies would lead Beijing to adopt a more "expansive" policy in relation to Taiwan's role in the world community.
According to reports monitored by The Point, Christensen made his comments while testifying before a congressional hearing on China's relations with Africa.
"We're hopeful that the warming trend in cross-strait relations will lead the government in Beijing to realise that it is in the long-term interest of stability across the Strait and in the long-term interest of international peace for Taiwan to play a full role on the international stage," he said.
Christensen was responding to a question about China's intensive efforts to deny Taiwan diplomatic recognition in Africa, where only four nations recognise Taiwan instead of China, and where China's often heavy-handed commercial activities have generated resentment.
"I think in general there are optimistic trends in cross-strait relations that may lead to more expansive and open policies by the mainland [sic] toward Taiwan in cross-strait relations, and also toward Taiwan in the international community, to provide Taiwan with more international space, and we push for this as part of our policy. That includes Taiwan's international space in international organisations," he said.
Asked by reporters after the hearing whether he thought China would relent in its opposition to Taiwan's participation in the WHO, Christensen said: "This is something for the future."
He added: "We're urging them to do this. We take some optimism from the trends across the Strait ... how that will play out over time, we'll have to see."
Asked about reports that China may be willing to reducing its 1,300 missiles aimed at Taiwan, Christensen said he had not seen such reports.
"We're hopeful that that will happen in the future, but that's a goal. I don't have anything to report to date," he said.
In his testimony, Christensen said that one of China's three goals in Africa was to deny diplomatic space to Taiwan. The others were a search for resources and for "prestige."