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Mark Toner, Remarks on Ma Ying-jeou’s Visit to Taiping Island, January 27, 2016

U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner discussed the American government’s view of Pres. Ma’s trip. He responded to questions at the daily press briefing.
January 27, 2016
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U.S. State Department
Washington, D.C.
January 27, 2016

QUESTION: Yeah. The president of Taiwan, the President Ma, is going to travel to Taiping Island. And what’s the U.S. comment on it?

MR TONER: Sure. Hold on one second, please.

QUESTION: Sure.

MR TONER: You’re talking about – yeah, President Ma Ying-jeou’s plans to travel to Taiping Island, I think. Frankly, we’re disappointed. We view such an action as unhelpful, and it does not contribute to the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea. We urge Taiwan and all claimants to lower tensions and de-escalate tensions rather than taking actions that could possibly raise them.

QUESTION: Follow-up.

QUESTION: But even during the China build the rock, the U.S. don’t even use the wording like “disappointed” and “unhelpful.” Why this time the U.S. pick up these two wording on Taiwan? Is it fair enough for all the claimant?

MR TONER: Well, look. I’m not going to – we’ve been very clear that we disagree with China’s actions in terms of manmade structures on the islands. We view them also as unhelpful and that they don’t lead to a peaceful resolution of the disputes over the South China Sea. We want to see a halt among all claimants to further land reclamation, construction of new facilities, militarization of outposts. All of that would help lower tensions and create space for a peaceful resolution.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Will it further U.S.-Taiwan’s relation?

MR TONER: I’m not aware that we had a conversation with them. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: Will it affect the U.S. and Taiwan’s relation?

MR TONER: Will affect our --

QUESTION: Yeah. How will it affect --

QUESTION: We have very strong relations with Taiwan. Sometimes we disagree on their actions. We’re committed to a “one China” policy. We look forward to the incoming president and building stronger relations with Taiwan. But we disagree on this particular act.

Please.

QUESTION: Yeah, Mark, the – you used some of the harsh words on President Ma’s trip to the Taiping Island. But Taiping is the largest natural island in the South China Sea the Republican of China has claimed since 1946 and has occupied since 1956. Why can’t he do that? Taiwan is probably the last party to want to raise tension in the South China Sea. But it has a voice that it wants the international community to hear. When you have – when you consult on the South China Sea, when you discuss the disputes in the South China Sea, Taiwan is never a party to be invited to the table. For instance, Secretary Kerry talked about a diplomatic approach to the disputes in the South China Sea in Beijing today. Would the United States make sure that Taiwan would be invited to the table as a party to the diplomatic approach? Thank you.

MR TONER: So – sure. I can’t speak to whether we would invite Taiwan to take part in any diplomatic conversations, except to say that – and to address your first part of your question, which is why not have its voice be heard by traveling to Taiping Island. Taiwan is – or rather, President Ma Ying-jeou has every right to make his position clear on the South China Sea. We just disagree with this particular action. We view it as – frankly, as raising tensions rather than what we want to see, which is de-escalation. We do want to see dialogue. We welcome all voices in the region weighing in in that dialogue. And it’s only through, as we’ve said many times, a diplomatic mechanism that we can successfully resolve the South China Sea.

Taiwan is a valued partner. We do have a strong dialogue with them and we’re going to continue to listen to their concerns and reflect their concerns in the various fora that address this issue.

QUESTION: Follow-up?

MR TONER: Please, follow up. Let’s finish this and then --

QUESTION: Last one.

MR TONER: Are you on this too?

QUESTION: In the region.

MR TONER: Okay. Cool.

QUESTION: Thanks. I mean, the point is Taiwan has long been excluded from the dialogue among the claimant of the South China Sea, and since the United States discourage President Ma from visiting the island, what would you encourage the Government of Taiwan to do as a claimant of the South China Sea?

MR TONER: Well again, I mean, I’m not going to list the steps that Taiwan or the Taiwanese Government should take and dictate to it in any way, shape, or form. I’m just saying that this particular action, we view as unhelpful.

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