US President Barack Obama's top intelligence adviser is denying that he used a crude term to describe Taiwan, the self-governing democratic island that China claims as its own.
Responding to a US senator's question submitted during his confirmation process, retired Adm. Dennis Blair wrote that he never called Taiwan the "turd in the punchbowl of US-China relations."
But Blair, confirmed Wednesday to lead 16 US intelligence agencies, said he did use the "too-colorful phrase 'tossing a turd in the punchbowl"' during a closed meeting in 2000 to describe "a single, specific action by the Taiwanese government, certainly not Taiwan itself."
He did not say what the "specific action" by a former Taiwan government was, but said it was taken without consultation with the United States and "led to a confrontation between the United States and China that neither had sought and that did not benefit Taiwan."
Republican Sen. Christopher Bond had asked Blair about "a number of negative comments" about U.S. policy toward Taiwan that had been attributed to Blair in the past. "I believe, at one time, you referred to Taiwan as the 'turd in the punchbowl of US-China relations,"' Bond wrote.