Thu, Oct 22, 2015 - Page 8 News List

Reconciling cross-strait contrivance

By Shirley Kan

As former US president Abraham Lincoln said, quoting the Bible: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Leaders strive for solidarity and stability. The KMT could shift from working against domestic groups to working on convergence for the nation’s survival. The DPP could be creative in citing a common creed to sustain stability and security. The KMT could seek a real consensus with more Taiwanese — especially young people — instead of hypocritically demanding clarity and ganging up with the CCP to wield a contrived political weapon against opposition at home.

The DPP could overlook a semantic quarrel, and be reasonable and realistic, rather than rigid.

In his “national day” speech in October 2004, Chen suggested that the “1992 meeting” be the basis to resume cross-strait talks. Convening a meeting in July 2013 on the “1992 consensus” that even included Su, the DPP signaled a nuanced shift that it is willing to at least deal with the concept.

Taiwan’s “one China, different interpretations,” or the “1992 consensus,” can stay in a strategy of expedient ambiguity with enough convergence to sustain stability and the “status quo.” Initiated by realists like [former US secretary of state] Henry Kissinger, US policy on “one China” concerning Taiwan offers an example. The bible of the “one China” policy is the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979, US Public Law 96-8.

The “sacred texts” also include three US-PRC joint communiques. In a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at the White House on Sept. 25, US President Barack Obama reiterated a strong commitment to the US’ “one China” policy based on the Three Joint Communiques and the TRA, despite Beijing’s opposition to the TRA. Obama did not recite a belief held dearly by Taiwan since 1982, namely, the “six assurances.”

US policy is not only one of ambiguity, such as “acknowledging” the “Chinese position” of “one China,” with Taiwan as a part of it. The policy is also based on Taiwan’s unsettled status. Passed by then-AIT director James Lilley in July 1982 on a plain piece of paper without any signature and never published as the “six assurances,” then-US president Ronald Reagan conveyed principles to Taipei during negotiations of the Aug. 17, 1982 joint communique with Beijing.

To signal that Taiwan was not abandoned, Washington noted that it had not agreed to set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan; has not agreed to hold prior consultations with the PRC on arms sales to Taiwan; will not play any mediation role between Taipei and Beijing; has not agreed to revise the TRA; has not altered its position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan; and will not exert pressure on Taiwan to negotiate with the PRC.

While Taipei has interpreted these points in that context as promises that bind US policy indefinitely, successive US presidents have not elevated the “six assurances” to the status of the TRA or the Three Joint Communiques. Unless elicited by the US Congress, Department of State officials do not routinely reaffirm the “six assurances” or reiterate the points as a complete creed. They are not commandments carved in stone. Thus, it was significant when then-US assistant secretary of state Kurt Campbell testified at a hearing of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee in October 2011 and reaffirmed that the “Taiwan Relations Act plus the so-called six assurances and Three Communiques form the foundation of our overall approach.”

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