Mon, May 20, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Taiwan Assurance Act not a panacea

By Huang Kwei-bo 黃奎博

On May 7, the US House of Representatives passed the Taiwan Assurance Act of 2019 (H.R. 2002). Some in the media have interpreted this to mean that the US is closer to Taiwan than to Israel, or that Washington is about to establish diplomatic ties with Taipei, while some commentators have said that the conflict between the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) “Anti-Secession” Law and the will of the US Congress could lead to a crisis, and that the US is in effect forcing Taiwan to spend big money on arms procurements.

To be fair, although the Taiwan Assurance Act is likely to be passed by the US Senate and then signed into law by US President Donald Trump, it mostly restates or makes minor adjustments to the US’ Taiwan Relations Act, the “six assurances,” the Taiwan Travel Act and the annual National Defense Authorization Acts.

There is reason to be optimistic, but people should not be so naive as to believe that diplomacy will be smooth sailing from now on.

In particular, some of the opinions in the Taiwan Assurance Act are more aggressive than the text in other related acts.

Since no one knows whether the White House will actively implement the act, caution is called for.

First, the Taiwan Assurance Act states: “The United States should conduct regular sales and transfers of defense articles to Taiwan in order to enhance its self-defense capabilities.”

“Regular” refers to enforcing something periodically, while the length of the period is determined by the US executive branch. If Washington wants Taipei to procure arms in compliance with the act when there is no need for Taiwan to make such purchases regularly, that might not be favorable for Taiwan.

Next, it states: “It is the policy of the United States to advocate for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in the United Nations, the World Health Assembly, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Criminal Police Organization, and other international bodies, as appropriate, and to advocate for Taiwan’s membership in the Food and Agriculture Organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and other international organizations for which statehood is not a requirement for membership.”

Despite the long list of organizations, the statement remains within the scope of the “three noes” policy proposed by then-US president Bill Clinton during his 1998 visit to Shanghai, when he said: “We don’t believe that Taiwan should be a member in any organization for which statehood is a requirement.”

Lastly, the act states that no later than 180 days after its enactment date, the US Department of State shall submit to Congress a review of the department’s guidelines on relations with Taiwan, the 1994 Taiwan Policy Review and the implementation of the Taiwan Travel Act.

If the executive branch were as supportive of Taiwan as the legislative branch, the implementation of the documents and laws would have been reviewed long ago.

Moreover, since the Taiwan Travel Act came into effect, the US has not sent a high-ranking administrative or security official that would imply Taiwan’s sovereignty, showing that Washington is concerned about the CCP and its “one China” principle.

Exactly what does the Taiwan Assurance Act assure Taiwan, and what can it do for the normalization of Taiwan-US relations? It is clearly not something that can be explained with a few simple graphics or a so-called “lazybones’ pack for dummies.”

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