Fri, Sep 27, 2019 - Page 8 News List

US should confirm the AIT director

By Mike Kuo 郭正光

On Aug. 11, the New York Times crossword puzzle had a particularly easy clue for 18 across: “Most populous nation not in the UN.” The answer? Taiwan, of course. So, no wonder most of my fellow Americans are surprised to hear that the US and Taiwan, despite our long-standing and close alliance, do not have diplomatic relations.

The fact that the US Senate does not confirm the US’ top diplomat to Taiwan, as it does for all other countries, comes as a surprise as well. After all, US law recognizes Taiwan as an independent, sovereign country with its own territory, government and population.

Yet, without strong US backing for Asia’s freest democracy, China’s anaconda strategy in world diplomacy will fatally strangle Taiwan’s international space.

The Formosan Association for Public Affairs fears Taiwan might not be receiving the vital recognition and respect in Washington that the country needs to survive as a US partner in democratic Asia.

It therefore urges the legislature to reimpose the constitutional requirement for Senate advice and consent in the US president’s appointment of the director of the American Institution in Taiwan (AIT).

Article II, Section 2, of the constitution says that the president “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for.”

The 1979 US Taiwan Relations Act, signed by then-US president Jimmy Carter on April 10, 1979, mandates that committees of the US Congress shall monitor the “operation and procedures” of the AIT.

The AIT’s Web site only admits that the US Department of State provides a “large part” of its funding “and guidance in its operations.”

Truth be told, the US secretary of state is the sole source of the AIT’s money, and is the sole selector of AIT’s “director” — the exact equivalent of an ambassador in every respect.

The AIT director supervises a large multiagency US mission with foreign service officers from the US departments of agriculture, commerce, defense and others, as well as the state department, exactly as a chief of mission would in any other US embassy.

The AIT’s Taipei office has also had a “consular section,” staffed with active-duty US consuls and vice consuls for several years.

Allowing the secretary of state to self-advise and self-consent, and then self-appoint the nation’s ambassador to Taiwan, arguably, is an unconstitutional delegation of the Senate’s legislative power to the US executive branch.

It seems indefensible for the executive branch to pretend that an official mission to a foreign country such as the AIT, staffed exclusively by executive branch officers, funded exclusively from the US Department of the Treasury, and operating solely at the direction of the secretary of state, is not an embassy.

It is also disingenuous in the extreme to say that the chief of that mission is not an ambassador, or a public minister or a consul, or even an “officer of the United States whose appointments are not ... otherwise provided for” in the constitution.

To this day, the official nature of high-level US-Taiwan interactions has remained unchanged. However, some recent moves on the US side bode well for a more normal bilateral relationship.

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