Anthony Lake: "Never at the expense of Taiwan"

Taipei, 5 March 1998

Former United States National Security advisor Anthony Lake arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday, 4 March 1998, for a 5-day visit, during which he met with Taiwan political leaders.

On 5 March he gave a speech in Taipei, in which he emphasized that -- while the United States would welcome talks between Taiwan and China -- it was not trying to push Taiwan to the bargaining table. He also told the group of 300 Taiwan politicians and scholars that improvement in relations between the United States and Beijing "...will never be at the expense of Taiwan. Never. Period".

Mr. Lake added Washington would not mediate or even exert pressure to start talks, as this risked raising suspicions of "western meddling'' and did not ensure the best outcome. "An agreement reached by the People's Republic of China and Taiwan themselves, freely and on the basis of their own calculations of their own interests, is far more likely to endure than one that results from outside pressure,'' he said.

Lake said there was no subtle campaign by Washington to use former administration officials to pressure Taiwan into talks with Beijing. There have been several visits to the region recently by former high-ranking Washington officials. "A lot of speculation about track-two diplomacy is unwarranted," he said.

Lake said Washington's bottom line was that any deal be achieved peacefully, though it always felt that democracy offered the best solution anywhere on earth.

Lake praised Taiwan's vibrant democracy for undermining those who felt "Asian values'' were inconsistent with democracy and said it offered lessons for Asian neighbours where, he argued, a lack of democracy had led to financial chaos. "Democracy, with its emphasis on transparency and rule of law, is the enemy of crony capitalism,'' he said.

Lake, who served as President Bill Clinton's national security advisor between 1993 and January 1997, was instrumental in mediating when in 1995 and 1996 Beijing launched six rounds of war games and missiles firings against Taiwan in the run-up to the nation's first presidential election.

In response, Washington sent the biggest naval force the region had seen since the Vietnam war. "Our response, both public and private, was clear: Use of force against Taiwan, we said, would have grave consequences,'' Lake said. "The dispatch of the two aircraft carrier groups to the area underlined our point.''

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