Washington, Sept. 12 (CNA) A recent move by the United States to recall its top diplomats to three nations in Central America and the Caribbean is meant to tell Beijing that its actions to pressure those countries to break diplomatic relations with Taiwan are not consequence-free, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty said Wednesday.
Moriarty described China's actions in recent years to end a diplomatic truce with Taiwan as "troubling" and stressed that Beijing's efforts to unilaterally alter the status quo across the Taiwan Strait are harmful and do not contribute to regional stability.
"We will tell the Chinese that picking off diplomatic partners of Taiwan is a source of great concern to the United States. We've been telling China as clearly as possible that these are not consequence-free actions," he said at an annual symposium held by Washington-based think tank the Global Taiwan Institute (GTI).
Taiwan has lost five diplomatic allies to China since President Tsai Ing-wen took office in May 2016, including Panama in June 2017, the Dominican Republic in May this year, and most recently, El Salvador last month.
This has led to a sharp drop to 17 the number of countries that recognize Taipei instead of Beijing.
On Sept. 7, the U.S. Department of State said it had recalled U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic Robin Bernstein, U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Jean Manes and U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Panama Roxanne Cabral for "consultations related to recent decisions to no longer recognize Taiwan."
Moriarty noted that observers in the United States, both outside and inside government, including a broad spectrum of members of Congress, are deeply troubled that China has escalated its pressure on Taiwan, including increased People's Liberation Army activity in the air and seas around Taiwan.
Recent congressional action on Taiwan, like the unanimous passage of the Taiwan Travel Act, reflect those concerns, he said.
Consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States considers any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, of grave concern to the United States, Moriarty said.
"We encourage both sides of the Taiwan Strait to demonstrate patience, flexibility and creativity in resolving differences." he said.
When asked by a reporter why the U.S. does not recall its ambassador to China if it wants to send a message to Beijing, Moriarty did not give a direct answer, saying only that there are many issues the U.S. and China need to tackle and that Taiwan is an important one. The U.S. has to make China understand Washington's stance, he said, adding that the U.S. government's move has attracted Beijing's attention.
He also reiterated that the U.S. hopes the two sides of the Taiwan Strait will resume constructive dialogue.
Moriarty also said he did not know whether talks between Taiwan and the U.S. under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) will be held this year, but added that U.S.-Taiwan trade discussions have been conducted regularly to seek common ground to address certain bothersome issues.
It will take some time for Taiwan and the U.S. to sign a free trade agreement, he said, adding that only if progress has been achieved to settle the pending issues will more formal talks be held.