State Department officials said yesterday that China gave the United States no explicit assurances, open or secret, about Taiwan's security when the Carter administration agreed to normalize relations with Peking.
This admission-the most specific made by the administration about whether there were any private promises onot to use force against Taiwan-came from Richard Holbrooke, assistant secretary of state for Far Eastern affairs, in a press briefing.
"There is no secret agreement as part of this accord," Holbrooke said.
However, Holbrooke insisted, the reality is that China is more concerned at present about the large numbers of Soviet troops massed on its northern border than in using force to assert its claim to Taiwan.
In addition, he noted, "The United States is and will remain an Asian and Pacific power . . . deeply concerned with stability in the region. The United States would view any new situation that might arise at any future time in the light of its interests in the region and would deal with it in that fashion."
Holbrooke's comments came as he and other administration officials sought to turn aside charges by Taiwan's supporters that Washington is abandoning a long-time ally.
Herbert Hansell, the State Department legal adviser, said that, although diplomatic relations will be severed and the U.S. mutual defense pact with Taiwan abrogated, the United States is willing to continue the approximately 60 other treaties between Washington and Taipei. These cover such matters as trade, visas, economic and technical cooperation.
Hansell reitereated that the maintenance of these ties would have to be done on an unofficial basis through some kind of special coporate arrangements and that legislation will be required to set them up.
The administration's approach received some cautious but potentially important support yesterday from the United States-Republic of China Economic Council, a group representing more than 200 U.S. corporations doing business with Taiwan.
David Kennedy, the council chairman and a former secretary of the treasury, conferred with Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and said afterward:
"The secretary assured us that the administration intends to take a number of positive steps designed not only to ensure the continued development of our business relations with Taiwan but also to alleviate certain transitional problems as businessmen on both sides seek to accommodate to this new relationship."
Kennedy said that Taiwan has become America's eighth-largest trading partner, with a current two-way trade of $7.5 billion and the expectation that Taiwan will import more than $20 billion worth of u.s. products in the next five years.
He noted that his group is "not a political organization" and does not have a position on approving or disapproving the administration's China move. Instead, he said, "it's an accomplished fact. We want, as the president does, to make this thing work."
Kennedy also said that many business firms already have dealings with both Taiwan and mainland China and added that he did not expect Peking to cause difficulties for companies continuing to trade with Taipei.
One outspken foe of normalization, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), called for a special session of Congress to consider whether President Carter acted improperly by failing to fully consult Congress before making the decision to open relations with Peking.
In response to such charges, Holbrooke said administration officials had discussed the administration's views informally with hundreds of members of Congress in recent months.
He conceded, though, that details of the actual negotiations were restricted to a very small group of people. When asked if that group included members of Congress, he replied that the answer would have to come from the White House.