Ambassador Richard Holbrooke has said that the situation in Tibet and Taiwan have changed greatly since the United States agreed on the three existing communiques with China. In an exclusive interview to the Taiwanese English language daily, The China Post,published on January 10, 2002 Holbrooke expanded on his suggestions for the need of a fourth communique saying that since the three communiques Taiwan has had a mature political system and there have been “crackdowns in Tibet,” implying that the issue of Tibet needs to be addressed. The full text follows.
Chris Cockel, The China Post, January 10, 2002.In a bid to clarify his position on the issue of a so-called “fourth communique” between the United States and mainland China, Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, stressed in New York on January 8 that such a joint official bulletin, if signed, should not be at the expense of Taiwan.
In an exclusive interview with The China Post, Holbrooke stated that his remarks regarding the “fourth communique,” made in a Jan. 2 op-ed article in the Washington Post, had been misunderstood or deliberately misconstrued, but that he anticipated such comments in writing the article.
Richard Boucher, U.S. State Department spokesman, in response to the Jan 2. article, reiterated that there would be no change in the existing framework of Washington’s relationship with Beijing.
In his article, “A Defining Moment With China,” Holbrooke wrote that the “Sino-American relationship will be the most important bilateral relationship in the world during the next cycle of history.” However, he emphasized that Taiwan is included in this relationship.
“When I say U.S.-Chinese, I include Taiwan,” Holbrooke said.
Reacting to Holbrooke’s article, James Lilley, former U.S. ambassador to Beijing and former director of the American Institute in Taiwan, in a letter on Monday to the Washington Post, said that there is no need for a “fourth communique.” He said that such a document would only serve to bog down discussions between the United States and mainland China, when there are more important issues to pursue.
Holbrooke defended his position, stating that the three existing communiques — the Shanghai Communique (1972), the Joint Communique on Normalization of Relations (1978) and the Communique on Arms Sales to Taiwan (1982) — “were written during the Cold War, before Taiwan had a mature political system, before Sept. 11, before Tiananmen Square, before the crackdowns in Tibet.”
“Some of the things are irrelevant now and some have been eroded by time” Holbrooke said. “There would be value in an update.”
Nevertheless, Holbrooke stopped short of specifying the exact content of a “fourth communique,” saying that as a private citizen this was not his position, and that such details could only be formulated by officials.
He acknowledged his attendance at a Shanghai business leaders’ conference in November, but denied any significance in the timing of the article, although he is known to have met with President Jiang Zemin at that time.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of people, and I’ve tried this idea out in semi-public meetings,” Holbrooke said. “I wanted to provoke a public discussion on the fact that the U.S.-China relationship has improved since Sept. 11, but this is not something we should take for granted.”
While standing by his support for a “fourth communique” with Beijing, Holbrooke was quick to reaffirm his affinity to the people of Taiwan. “I consider myself a friend of Taiwan and the Taiwanese people,” he said.
Although each communique has been “less of a problem for Taiwan than its predecessor,” the notion of yet another communique between Washington and Beijing would not be welcomed in Taiwan, Holbrooke said.
“I knew the official position would be negative to this, because the official position from Taiwan has been negative on every communique, even the 1982 communique which legitimizes arms sales,” said Holbrooke, who first visited Taiwan in 1977 and met President Chiang Ching-kuo in his capacity as U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Holbrooke expressed his view that Taiwan plays a major role in maintaining stability in the Pacific. “We can do nothing that would put the prosperity, stability and peace of Taiwan at risk,” he said.
Following the publication of the article in the Washington Post, Holbrooke has also been criticized for being overly friendly toward or even acting as a mouthpiece of the Beijing government at a time when questions have arisen surrounding mainland China’s motives in the war on terrorism.
He flatly rejected this accusation, saying, “Anyone who thinks I write things at the behest of other governments would be making a serious mistake.” He continued:
“I do not have any idea what the Chinese government’s views on this article are, I didn’t discuss it with them in advance, and I didn’t show it to them in advance.”
However, Holbrooke did note support in the United States for his proposals. “I talked about this article with many people in the U.S. government, and many of them thought it was the right way to go,” he said.
Holbrooke stated his admiration and respect for Taiwan and its people in the peaceful transition to democracy.
Asked whether Taiwan might serve as a model for a future democratic mainland China, holbrooke said, “I believe the entrepreneurial skills, raw energy and intellectual brain power of the Taiwanese people unleashed on the mainland is clearly having a political, economic and cultural effect.”