Fri, Feb 10, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Time for broader talks with the US

By Shirley Kan

With some new faces in key posts representing the people of Taiwan and the US, incuding Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairman Yu Shyi-kun, Minister of Foreign Affairs James Huang (黃志芳), and a new American Institute in Taiwan director, it might be time for a re-engagement between Taiwan and the US.

A focus on closer engagement between Taipei and Washington would redirect the worn-out arguments and blame game over the "communication" issue since 2002. Rather than arguing over "communication," the two sides could engage in a broader dialogue on common interests, speak with greater clarity (such as on arms sales), meet at higher levels (possibly with the first Cabinet-level visit under US President George W. Bush), strengthen ties between lawmakers, and promote collaboration between businesses (possibly through the American Chamber of Commerce and US-Taiwan Business Council).

So, these are questions for all Taiwanese leaders, be they green, blue or other colors. The DPP has young, dynamic and passionate individuals working hard for Taiwan's democracy. The KMT has experience from decades of ruling and defending Taiwan's people. What kind of relationship with the US does Taiwan want as it faces global challenges today?

Will Taiwan engage with the US to dispel misconceptions and pursue sustainable ties on a solid foundation of shared economic, security and political interests? Will Taiwan focus on the fundamentals for foreign investment and trade and look beyond political risks?

Last August, the Taiwan Caucus in the US House of Representatives invited Ma to visit Washington after he was elected KMT chairman. Will Ma accept the invitation? Will the DPP administration and members of the Legislative Yuan enhance substantive engagement with the Bush administration and US lawmakers?

After Bush entered the White House in 2001, Taiwan was of-fered a window of opportunity presented by the friendliest US administration since 1979 and supported by the Congress. That window had opened five years ago. As the US assesses a changing China and recalibrates US policy, so too will the administration and Congress assess Taiwan, even if not under a formal policy review as it did in 1994.

Shirley Kan is a policy analyst at the Congressional Research Service of the US Congress. The views in this article are her own.

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