It has been over three years since the last major policy address by a Washington-based, senior US official on US-Taiwan Relations. The last such occasion was when then-assistant secretary of state James Kelly testified before the House International Relations Committee in April 2004 marking the 25th Anniversary of the TRA.
In his testimony, Kelly said, "our position continues to be embodied in the so-called `six assurances' offered to Taiwan by [former] president [Ronald] Reagan."
While his words were reassuring at the time, I think over the three years since this testimony trust between the US and Taiwan has weakened. Thus there is a need today for a strong, clear statement from a senior US official that will move us toward genuine reassurance. If the US government does see fit, I suggest they not think about reissuing the old six assurances -- rather, they should consider delivering "six new assurances."
Crafting a policy message that is appropriate for contemporary circumstances, including an acknowledgment of the remarkable changes that have taken place in both China and Taiwan can set us on a better course.
The "six new assurances" might look something like this:
One, the survival and success of democracy in Taiwan is in the interest of the US and thus the US government will endorse efforts that deepen and strengthen Taiwan's democracy.
Two, the US will always honor the TRA, and will continue to pay special attention to ensure the US government makes available to Taiwan weapons needed for self-defense, and that the US military maintains the capacity to resist force in the Taiwan Strait if instructed to do so.
Three, the US endorses cross-strait dialogue and interactions, but will not pressure Taiwan to enter into negotiations with the People's Republic of China (PRC) on terms Taiwan may deem as unfavorable.
Four, issues related to the sovereignty of Taiwan are for the people of the PRC and the people of Taiwan to decide peacefully themselves; the US will not formally recognize the PRC's sovereignty over Taiwan; the US will not support any outcome achieved through the use of force, nor any outcome that does not enjoy the support among the majority of the free people of Taiwan.
Five, the US needs good relations with China to further a broad range of security interests. However, under no circumstances will the US seek to curry favor with China by making sacrifices in its relationship with Taiwan.
The US-Taiwan bilateral relationship is a valuable in its own right and worthy of greater investment.
The US will not agree to "co-manage" the issue of Taiwan with the PRC.
Six, Taiwan as a successful democracy, a thriving economy, and a global leader in health and science stands to contribute far greater as a good citizen of the world.
The US will seek to promote opportunities for Taiwan to participate meaningfully in international organizations, and will resist pressure to isolate Taiwan from participating and/or benefiting from the cooperative work among nations in international organizations.
Randall Schriver is a former US deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs and a founding partner of Armitage International LC.