In the past week, the US commemorated US senator John McCain, who passed away on Saturday last week. Many in the US and around the world have spoken eloquently of his courage, principles and passion for justice, freedom and fairness.
It is thus also appropriate to say a few words about what he meant for Taiwan. This is by no means a complete picture, as Taiwanese were only able to witness a few of the moments when he focused on the nation and spoke out on issues of importance to it.
As early as 2005, McCain expressed concern about the Chinese military buildup and supported the inclusion in the US National Defense Authorization Act of a clause “strengthening military ties between Taiwan and the United States by enhancing communication and exchanges between US senior military officials and their counterparts from Taiwan.”
In October 2008 — during his race for the presidency against then-US senator Barack Obama — McCain commented on an arms sale package for Taiwan by then-US president George W. Bush, saying it did not go far enough and should have included submarines and F-16s.
“I believe that America should continue to sell defensive weapons to Taiwan in the future, in accordance with its security requirements, and stand by this remarkable free and democratic people,” McCain said.
In September 2011, McCain joined then-US senators Joe Lieberman, Jim Webb and Mark Kirk to welcome then-presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to Washington.
At a meeting, McCain expressed concern about Chinese interference in Taiwanese elections, and spoke out for free and fair elections, as well as US arms sales to Taiwan.
In early June 2015, McCain hosted Tsai and her delegation in his office in Washington — along with US senators Jack Reed and Dan Sullivan — right after he got off a plane from a long trip to the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore with a stop in Vietnam.
When Tsai was elected in January 2016, McCain was one of the first to send a congratulatory message, saying: “I look forward to working with Dr Tsai to strengthen Taiwan’s democratic institutions and economic prosperity, including through support for Taiwan’s inclusion in future rounds of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I also look forward to close cooperation on improving Taiwan’s security situation through arms sales and high-end military training that will ensure a stable cross-strait balance.”
Right after Tsai’s inauguration on May 20, 2016, McCain led a delegation of no fewer than seven US senators to Taipei to meet with her.
The US would remain committed to Taiwan’s security, McCain said at the meeting, adding that the visit was intended to reaffirm their commitment to the freedom and independence of Taiwan.
In the US, McCain is being honored as a true American hero: a man who stood for his principles, showed courage under severe duress and who was never afraid to speak up for righteousness and justice.
It is important for Taiwanese to remember him as a close and dear friend of the nation who was committed to supporting security, freedom and democracy.
Gerrit van der Wees is a former Dutch diplomat who served as publisher of Taiwan Communique from 1980 through 2016. He teaches History of Taiwan at George Mason University in Virginia.
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