Tue, Aug 01, 2000 - Page 8 News List

What would Al Gore's Taiwan policy be?

By Li Thian-hok 李天福

If elected President in November, what would Al Gore's policy towards Taiwan be like?

During a debate last January, Al Gore said "In China, we need to demand respect for human rights and religious freedom. But bringing China into the community of nations, fostering peace between China and Taiwan, and engaging them in a way that furthers our values, I think that's in our interest."

In another debate in December 1999, he supported strategic ambiguity: "... we don't want to embolden ... the hard-liners on either side of the Taiwan Strait to take some rash action."

Mouthing the mantra of peaceful resolution does not amount to a serious policy designed to deter the looming military conflict in the Taiwan Strait.

Gore's concern that Taipei may take rash action is misplaced. Beijing is the one incessantly threatening military action against democratic Taiwan.

Amid the presidential campaign, it is doubtful Gore's foreign policy advisers will have the time to reappraise US policy toward Taiwan.

At this stage, it is impossible to tell what Gore's position would be regarding Taiwan's ultimate status. Still it is useful to gather some relevant information now so we may better cope with a Gore administration.

On June 14, the American Enterprise Institute held a panel discussion on "How Would Al Gore Govern in Foreign Policy?" The main panelists were Leon Fuerth, National Security Adviser to the Vice President; former Congressman Steve Solarz; former CIA Director James Woolsey and former Senator Dale Bumpers of Arkansas, all people who know Gore well and who are friendly with him.

The panelists brought up a number of Gore's strengths. He has the "ability to spot things coming over the horizon," for example global warming. Gore will be more hawkish. He was one of six Democratic Senators who voted for Desert Storm.

In foreign policy and national security, a Gore administration will be more focused on long-term objectives and substance, as opposed to short-term political and public relations considerations as under Clinton.

Gore is said to be interested in foreign policy and would "immerse himself in the agenda more deeply." The fact that Solarz, who is familiar with Taiwan issues, is close to him can also be a positive factor.

On the negative side, Al Gore's foreign policy would be very similar to Clinton's.

Gore appears complacent about the growing military and strategic alliance between China and Russia. Gore supported Permanent Normal Trade Relations for China and opposed the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act.

His statement that he supports the "reformers" in Beijing portrays a potentially dangerous naivete regarding the nature and goals of the Chinese Communist Party.

One thing appears certain. As president, Gore is more likely to place US national interests ahead of personal political calculations in making foreign policy and national security decisions.

The Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a Taiwanese American lobbying group, has already contacted the Gore campaign staff to seek support for Taiwan.

It behooves A-bian's (阿扁) government to do the same. It is imperative that A-bian promptly convey to the incoming US administration the Taiwanese people's unequivocal commitment to defend Taiwan's freedom.

Li Thian-hok is a board member at large of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs and chair of the diplomacy committee of World United Formosans for Independence (USA).

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