Sun, Sep 11, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan deserves US’ assurances

By Nat Bellocchi 白樂崎

This week, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) will visit Washington and meet with US officials and members of Congress. It will be a good opportunity for Washington to hear directly from the DPP’s presidential candidate what policies she will be pursuing if she is elected in January.

Tsai has recently issued a number of policy papers outlining her plans for Taiwan’s future, both in terms of domestic policies on socioeconomic issues and international policies on how she intends to enhance Taiwan’s relations with other countries, including China. She has laid out a strategy in which she strives for a more balanced development inside Taiwan, reform of the anachronistic judicial system, and a global strategy in which Taiwan reinforces its strategic partnership with the US and strengthens cooperation with other democracies in the Asia-Pacific region.

Washington will look carefully at her proposals for relations with China. She is holding out an open hand for “multilayered and multifaceted” relations with China and for establishing a “stable and constructive bilateral relationship.” However, she rejects the imposition by China of unacceptable preconditions, such as the “one China” principle — implying that Taiwan is part of China — or the vague and undefined so-called “1992 consensus.”

With this, she has outlined a clear and moderate policy toward China. There is no need for her to further “clarify” the DPP’s China policy, as suggested by some. The ball is now in China’s court, and Beijing needs to show that it wants peaceful coexistence with its neighbors, including Taiwan. It needs to dismantle the missiles it has aimed at Taiwan and move toward a constructive relationship with its smaller neighbor.

For Washington it is important to go back to the basics of US relations with Taiwan. In 1979, Washington “derecognized” the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government because it persisted in presenting itself as the de facto and de jure government of all of China. Since then, Taiwanese have transformed the country into a lively democracy which aspires to play a full, equal and substantial role in the international community.

Taiwan today is very different from Taiwan in 1979. However, the US has not adjusted its policies, but continued to let Taiwan dangle in diplomatic isolation. The US has not moved forward on a free trade agreement, and seems to hesitate on much-needed arms sales.

What is needed is a new set of assurances from Washington in which it outlines a new vision for its relations with Taiwan. To start, Washington can implement the recent suggestions by US Congressman Howard Berman, the ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Relations, who said that US restrictions on meetings with Taiwan’s democratically elected leaders should be removed.

It is also clear that Taiwan wants to live in peace with all its neighbors. The US should ensure that the people of Taiwan can freely determine their own future, without threats or intimidation from China. If there is tension in the area, this is because of China’s military buildup and regional assertiveness, which is not only focused on Taiwan, but also includes the South China Sea and the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台).

If the US wants a reduction of tension in the broader region, it needs to lean more heavily on China to accept its democratic neighbors for what they are. Taiwan deserves to be able to set its own course. By itself Taiwan does not have enough weight to counter China’s threats and intimidations and therefore needs to deal with China in a multilateral context. The US and other democratic nations need to be there so Taiwan can have the confidence to engage China on an equal footing and without the threat of the use of force.

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