Fri, Jun 22, 2007 - Page 8 News List

The TRA and Reagan's Assurances

By Shirley Kan

US policy is not perfect. The US' "one China" policy is frequently criticized. Some say it lacks sufficient clarity, credibility and coherence. Others argue that it lacks consistency. Still others call it dangerous. Sometimes, the policy seems secretive and contradictory.

US policy could be more supportive of the Taiwanese and their quest for international recognition.

However, since last month, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has accused the US of violating its own law (the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, or TRA) and policies (e.g. the Six Assurances of 1982) regarding Taiwan's sovereignty. His claims require clarification to dispel misunderstandings in the Taiwan Strait.

In a commentary in the Washington Post on May 11, Chen noted that he had written a letter to the WHO a month before to apply for membership for his country under the name "Taiwan."

The World Health Assembly voted against placing the issue of Taiwan's membership application on their agenda. Then, on May 25, member countries of the World Organization for Animal Health, an international organization older than the UN, voted in favor of full participation for China and downgraded Taiwan's status to a non-sovereign member called "Chinese Taipei." Speaking through video conferencing at the National Press Club in Washington on May 29, Chen desperately warned that China was trying to "erase all trace of Taiwan in the global society" and pleaded with the US and other countries not to ignore China's strategy.

Then Chen adopted a new tactic, accusing the US of violating its own law governing policy toward Taiwan: the TRA.

The TRA, Public Law 96-8, was passed to provide a legal framework to continue a relationship with Taiwan's people after the US switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979.

Meeting with a congressional delegation on May 30, Chen's news release reported that he called for a review of aspects of the TRA that are "inappropriate" and asserted that China's actions against Taiwan at international organizations were inconsistent with the TRA. Chen claimed that the TRA treats Taiwan as a sovereign country.

Later, at a meeting on June 14 with the chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), an organization set up by the TRA in 1979 to handle the relationship with Taiwan in the absence of an embassy, Chen made another assertion about US policy. He said that China's claim that Taiwan is a province of China is inconsistent with the TRA and the Six Assurances (late US president Ronald Reagan's assurances to Taiwan in 1982).

Chen urged the US to reaffirm the Six Assurances, to reiterate that there is no change in the US stance on Taiwan's sovereignty and to counter China's efforts to downgrade Taiwan as a non-sovereign entity at international organizations.

US acquiescence to Taiwan's non-sovereign status at international bodies "violates" the Six Assurances, Chen reportedly stated. He said that the TRA and Six Assurances did not recognize Taiwan as a part of China.

It is true that the US has not recognized Taiwan as a part of China.

It is also true that the US has not recognized Taiwan as a sovereign country. The US did recognize Taiwan as a country (the Republic of China, or ROC) until the end of 1978. However, even while recognizing the ROC and its "jurisdiction" over Taiwan, the State Department testified to Congress in 1969 and 1970 that the juridical matter of Taiwan's status remained undetermined. The US considered sovereignty over Taiwan as unsettled.

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