From Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth to Senator Jesse Helms, George W. Bush is getting a lot of advice concerning his new administration's policy toward Taiwan. "Should Clinton's `assent of the people of Taiwan' continue to be considered a US condition for any peaceful settlement of the Taiwan Strait question?" Roth was asked. \n"That's the new administration's call. I certainly hope so," was his reply. \nSpeaking at an Asia Society forum, Roth noted the "good movement" that had taken place in US-China relations over the past few years, but stated that the bilateral relationship was "still not inherently stable." The issues he listed that could derail the relationship included arms sales to Taiwan, the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act and transit visits of high-level "current and former leaders" from Taiwan. Roth also believes that National and Theater Missile Defense systems are potential derailers of the relationship, as are human rights and non-proliferation issues. He sounded a note of concern on cross-straits relations. "I am worried because neither side understands the other," he stated. The PRC fails to understand that it must deal with the Chen government and the DPP president must come to grips with the complexities of the relationship with China. Roth does believe that there is a role to be played in all this by "special emissaries and envoys." \nIn a keynote address to a Hudson Institute conference, Senator Richard Lugar gave a typically well-balanced analysis of US relations with China and Taiwan. Lugar framed the issue by stating that "a successful US policy in Asia must include a constructive policy towards China," but was quick to point out that "it would be unthinkable for any US administration to stay aloof during a Chinese attempt to take Taiwan by military means. American credibility would suffer throughout the region and beyond. The alliance with Japan and our entire forward-military presence in East Asia would suffer a severe blow. For these reasons, it has been and must remain US policy to convince the parties that only a peaceful resolution of their differences is acceptable." Lugar called on the Bush administration to "begin a review of Sino-US relations and the cross-strait issue," taking into account past policy, and "also consider the substantive changes that have evolved over the past two decades because China and Taiwan -- and the United States, for that matter -- are not the same countries that signed the bilateral communique and the Taiwan Relations Act." \nLugar noted that both the Thompson bill sanctioning China if it transfers weapons of mass destruction and the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act are probably going to face the Congress and the Bush Administration this year. He also noted that "some of the toughest early national security decisions faced by the Bush administration" will be the "spring 2001 timetable for new arms requests" by Taiwan. \nMichael Pillsbury of the National Defense University commented at a Heritage Foundation forum on US policy toward China that there ought to be "strategic continuity and tactical ambiguity" in the policy. If the Bush administration wants smooth relations with China, Pillsbury said, there should be no arms sales to Taiwan in Bush's first year in office. If the Bush people want to turn to a more confrontational policy as suggested by Heritage's Stephen Yates, then arms sales should go forward. \nYates' policy paper Restoring perspective and priorities in US relations with China, part of the Heritage Foundation's Mandate for Leadership Project, declares that, as soon as he takes office, "President Bush should issue a statement of strategy for dealing with China. He should make clear his administration's intention to maintain normal relations with the People's Republic of China, but he also must make clear his determination to discourage China from acting in aggressive ways in the Asia-Pacific region, combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and promote the expansion of freedom in China." \nSenator Jesse Helms was his irrepressible, gentlemanly self at an American Enterprise Institute event. The Cold War remains firmly in place for Helms and he gave Bush a piece of his mind about policy toward Cuba, Iraq, Russia and China. "Oh, yes," the Senator intoned sarcastically, "we must engage China. But Beijing also must be made to understand that its avenues to destructive behavior are closed off, and that Taiwan will have the means to defend itself. During the campaign, President Bush gave his enthusiastic endorsement to the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act. And I intend to work with him to enact the TSEA, and to help ensure Taiwan's democracy remains secure from Chinese aggression." \nThe Senator's tone seems to have hardened from a Washington Times article printed just two days prior to the AEI speech. In the opinion piece, Helms wrote that the "early implementation of the provisions of the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act by the Bush administration will be vital in lowering the chances of American men and women having to fight in the Taiwan Strait." \nBy calling for implementation of the provisions of the TSEA, not necessarily enactment of the bill, Helms seemed to be giving the new Bush team some breathing space. Almost all commentators have noted that the provisions of the TSEA are allowed for under the Taiwan Relations Act, but that administrations over the years simply have not fully implemented the TRA. Helms has thrown down the gauntlet. Whether his advice or that of Senator Lugar is the path Bush takes, remains to be seen. \nMichael J. Fonte is senior policy analyst at the Formosan Association for Public Affairs.
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