Skip to main content
CNN.com /transcript

CNN TV
EDITIONS
SERVICES
CNN TV
EDITIONS

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Sen. Kerry Speaks of 'Strategic Ambiguity' Towards Taiwan

Aired April 25, 2001 - 14:34   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: There has been controversy developing over comments President Bush has made regarding relations with Taiwan, a possible defense of Taiwan, if that ever needed to be the case against China. There has been some criticism, and some is emerging from the floor of the Senate today.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts is speaking; let's listen to what he has to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: ...Not only to discourage Taiwan from drawing us in by declaring independence, but also to deter a Chinese attack by keeping Beijing guessing as to what the response might be.

Sometimes, some people have talked about trying to reduce that ambiguity and simplify it and say, of course, we would come to their defense. But if you do that, that simply Madame President, you invite a set of consequences that might carry with them their own set of dangers and you may lose control of the capacity to make a determination about what has happened and what the circumstances really are that you need to respond to.

President Bush's comments this morning on "Good Morning America" suggest that the administration has decided to abandon the so-called strategic ambiguity. If so, the president has made a major policy change with absolutely no consultation with the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee, the Intelligence Committee or the leadership of the Congress. In my view, it is a policy change that serves neither our interest nor Taiwan's.

Any situation which rules in the use of force across the Taiwan Strait is unlikely to be simply black and white, as clear as can be. The Tonkin Gulf is a classic example of that. To this day, people debate over whether or not there really was an attack on the Maddox and the Turner Joy, and whether or not there was an appropriate response under those circumstances.

The scenarios which could lead to the use of force and the conditions under which the United States might respond, are simply too variable to lend themselves to a simple, clear declaration, such as the declaration made by the president this morning. For example, if China attacked in response to what it sees as a Taiwanese provocation, would we then respond? Apparently so, according to President Bush. Or if Taiwan declared independence and China responded militarily, would we then come to Taiwan's defense? Have we given Taiwan a card it wanted all along which is the capacity to know that no matter what it does, the United States would in fact be there to defend it? The answer to that question is the reason that we have carried this ambiguity through President Ford, President Carter, President Reagan, and President Bush, the president's father.

In a subsequent interview on CNN, the president reiterated that we maintain the one China policy and he hopes China that Taiwan won't declare independence; but he remained vague as to what we would do if Taiwan declare independence and China attacked.

So, Madame President, to remove the strategic ambiguity, runs the risk of decreasing Taiwan security, rather than increasing it, and eliminating the flexibility that we will need to determine how to respond at any given situation. Notwithstanding, President Bush's efforts to clarify that the United States doesn't want Taiwan to declare independence, the new policy has the automatic impact if it is in place and if it is the declaration that was made of embolding Taiwan, and frankly, reducing our control over events.

Although I have argued we need to inject more clarity into our engagement with China, I personally believe that on this question, our interests and China's are better served by the ambiguity that has existed and would be better served by maintaining it. It not only deters a Chinese attack, but it discourages Taiwan into misreading what the United States might do.

President Bush has said that the United States has an obligation to defend Taiwan. Certainly, we want to help Taiwan preserve and thriving democracy and a robust growing economy. And I have said previously, Madame President, and I think this is enough of a message to the Chinese: that no American president could stand idly by and watch while that democracy that has been gained is set back by force or otherwise.

CHEN: John Kerry on the floor of the Senate, making some comments in response to some things said by President Bush.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

 Search   


Back to the top