Sat, Jan 22, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Updating the US’ policy on Taiwan

By Richard Zalski

This policy should be accompanied by White House and Department of State or Department of Defense officials traveling to Taipei. There have been frequent calls for such actions. In addition to passing the Murkowski amendment to the Taiwan Relations Act in 1994, the US Congress also adopted conference report PL 103-326, which suggested promoting visits of high-ranking US officials to Taiwan, as well as the Taiwan’s participation in international organizations.

Four years ago the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa, Global Human Rights and International Operations approved an amendment in the 2006-2007 National Defense Authorization Act to allow the legitimately elected leader of Taiwan to visit the US without restrictions. It stated that direct contact with Taiwan’s legitimate leaders, such as the president, vice president, foreign minister and defense minister, would be beneficial to US interests.

Despite this, a democratically elected president of Taiwan is currently unable to visit senior US officials in Washington and respected Tibetan Buddhist leaders have problems doing so. However, CCP general secretaries are able to visit the White House.

To seriously affect and improve cross-strait negotiations, the move on Washington’s part has to be bold. Why? Because this engagement only has advantages.

With regard to the Asia-Pacific, it would demonstrate the US’ disapproval of China’s belligerent politics toward its neighbors and provide evidence to US allies in Asia of the US’ commitment to the region. Also, in contrast to its disastrous Middle-Eastern engagement, it would prove that unlike China, the US has real soft power to offer. Finally, in relation to Taiwan, apart from the aforementioned update to the antiquated policy of strategic ambiguity, the US would demonstrate its understanding of the trends in Taiwanese politics and the emergence of Taiwan’s unique identity.

Implementation and execution of this policy should not be conducted with China experts, who are often heavily involved in business and consultation with US companies in China, but with Taiwan experts.

A first step might be helping Taiwan join peace-keeping and other activities — multilateral discussions where statehood is not required for membership.

This change would also send a very strong signal to the KMT that in addition to Taiwanese voters, Taiwan’s primary strategic ally does not accept surrendering a democratic success story to an authoritarian regime.

And once the DPP is in power, US backing would help it negotiate with CCP authorities and also lead to free-trade agreements with other countries. Moreover, it would show Beijing that Washington expects it to follow Taiwan’s example, not the other way around. This approach might also be stressed by not referring to cross-strait politics as “the Taiwan problem,” but as “the Taiwan opportunity.”

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