Taiwan: Powell Speaks of China,Taiwan 'Reunification'
On a tour of Asia, Powell also said Taiwan does not enjoy "sovereignty as a nation" -- a long-standing but quietly held U.S. view whose blunt expression may irk independence-minded Taiwanese officials.
"We want to see both sides not take unilateral action that would prejudice an eventual outcome, a reunification that all parties are seeking," Powell told CNN International, according to a State Department transcript released in Washington.
The comment departed from the usual U.S. practice of urging both sides to resolve their differences peacefully via dialogue and of avoiding taking any stance on what the resolution should be.
In a separate interview with Hong Kong's Phoenix TV, also taped in Beijing, Powell rejected the position adopted by some Taiwanese officials that the island is a sovereign nation.
"Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation, and that remains our policy, our firm policy," Powell told Phoenix TV.
U.S. officials said Powell's reunification comment was not intended to signal any change in U.S. policy and suggested he might use different language if asked the question again.
Asia analyst Alan Romberg of the Henry L. Stimson Center think tank said: "The U.S. position has been to stress the process, not the outcome, and to leave the outcome to the two parties. ... I do not think he was trying to articulate new policy."
China has claimed sovereignty over Taiwan since their split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 and has threatened to invade if the self-ruled democratic island, which it regards as a renegade province, formally declared independence.
In 1979, the United States transferred diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing and it reiterated the U.S. acknowledgment of the Chinese position that there is only one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.
However, the United States made clear it would continue to conduct unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan and, under the Taiwan Relations Act, made provisions to provide the island with items for its defense.