Wed, Mar 25, 2009 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Faleomavaega: no friend of Taiwan

On Thursday, US Representative Eni Faleomavaega was again a wrench in the US’ efforts to support Taiwan — this time ahead of the 30th anniversary of the most important piece of US legislation concerning Taiwan, the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).

The congressman’s actions are a disappointment coming from a person who has heaped praise on Taiwan’s democracy and human rights record and accused US politicians of cowering in the face of Beijing on the issue of Taiwan.

Faleomavaega no longer seems to be in a position to point fingers. At a meeting of the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment to discuss a resolution saluting three decades since the TRA was enacted, he pushed through key changes that watered down the text. Faleomavaega, of American Samoa, is chairman of the subcommittee.

It was not the first time his actions have belied his professed stance on Taiwan and the spirit of the TRA.

The resolution amended last week was proposed by 18 representatives voicing staunch support for the content of the TRA and for Taiwan, but Faleomavaega took issue with the strength of the wording, making changes that would attempt to weaken application of the TRA.

On top of this, he brazenly claimed the altered text was “better for the people of Taiwan.”

While the resolution originally called the TRA the “cornerstone” of US-Taiwan relations, it now calls the act “vital.” That is a change that should hearten Beijing, which wants to see the US gradually shift from relying on the TRA in deciding matters concerning Taiwan.

More good news for Beijing were the changes Faleomavaega made to soften the statement on providing arms of a defensive nature to Taiwan and a sentence praising Taiwan’s trade ties with the US that had been intended to pave the way for free trade.

As at other times when he has countered Taiwan supporters in Congress, it is unclear what Faleomavaega’s motive was on Thursday, but it was certainly not love for Taiwanese.

On whether he was pressured to propose the changes, Faleomavaega said only that there was pressure “from both sides.”

But when he opposed wording in a separate resolution on Taiwan that passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in February last year and the full House in March, he told the Taipei Times he was concerned about the potential negative effects on US-Taiwan ties.

Faleomavaega struck the sentence “Taiwan’s young democracy faces constant military threat and intimidation from neighboring China” from that resolution, which praised Taiwan’s democratization.

His statement to fellow lawmakers that he had visited Taiwan during election season and had seen “no intimidation from the People’s Republic of China” can only be described as ludicrous. It was a poor effort on his part to turn a blind eye to China’s constant shenanigans, not to mention its missile arsenal.

Last March, Faleomavaega even said that the US should not support Taiwan’s referendums on bidding for UN membership because of the US’ “position on one country, two systems.” This revealed shocking ignorance of the US stance on Taiwan from someone who is in a position to frustrate House efforts such as the TRA anniversary resolution. More disturbingly, it sounded like the rambling of an official from Beijing.

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