Thu, Aug 30, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan must act on US goodwill

By Parris Chang 張旭成

When she stopped over in Los Angeles on Aug. 13 on her way to Paraguay, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) paid a visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where she made a public statement in which she quoted the former US president, saying: “Everything [is] negotiable except two things: our freedom and our future.”

Some observers have interpreted Tsai’s remark as an olive branch to Beijing.

Reagan is regarded as one of the few US political leaders to have been Taiwan-friendly. However, this was thrown in doubt in 1982, when Reagan put his secretary of state, Alexander Haig, a disciple of former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, in charge of negotiating with China on drawing up the Joint Communique on Arms Sales to Taiwan, also known as the Aug. 17 Communique, which became the third of the three US-China joint communiques.

Under pressure from China, Haig agreed that the US would limit both the quality and quantity of its arms sales to Taiwan and gradually reduce them, “leading, over a period of time, to a final resolution.”

This promise was seen as a major concession to China and contradicted the unequivocal stipulation of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) that “the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.”

Consequently, Reagan dismissed Haig from office.

He also instructed then-American Institute in Taiwan director James Lilley to convey the so-called “six assurances” to then-president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), pledging not to set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan, not to consult with Beijing on such arms sales, not to act as a mediator between Taiwan and China, not to exert pressure on Taiwan to negotiate with China, not to amend the TRA and not to change the US’ position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan.

This last item meant that the US would not recognize China’s claim of sovereignty.

Haig is not the only US government official to have contravened the TRA. From the 1990s onward, the US government has harmed Taiwan’s interests on numerous occasions by acting contrary to the TRA and the “six assurances.”

In 1994, then-US president Bill Clinton’s administration conducted the Taiwan Policy Review, and in 1998, Clinton announced that the US government would not support Taiwan’s re-entry into the UN or its membership in any other organization for which statehood is a requirement.

Clinton’s statement contravened Section 4(d) of the TRA, which states: “Nothing in this chapter may be construed as a basis for supporting the exclusion or expulsion of Taiwan from continued membership in any ... international organization.”

To avoid upsetting Beijing, former US president Barack Obama’s administration only supplied Taiwan with outdated weapons and allowed Beijing to decide the quantity and quality of those weapons.

In addition to not fully implementing the terms of the TRA, this policy conflicted with the “six assurances.”

In 2016, the US Senate and House of Representatives responded by passing a concurrent resolution reaffirming the TRA and the “six assurances” as “cornerstones of US-Taiwan relations.” While voicing strong support for Taiwan, the resolution also expressed Congress’ strong disapproval of what the Obama administration had done.

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