Celebrating 33 years of the TRA and free Taiwan

By Mark Kao  / 

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 - Page 8

For people like me, who were born in Taiwan and later immigrated to the US, April 10 is a special day.

It is the day each year when Taiwanese--Americans take a moment to express gratitude in some way, shape or form to this great and proud nation of ours — the US.

Taiwan and the US have been close friends and allies for close to seven decades, but when the US government shifted diplomatic relations from Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in January 1979, Taiwan was doomed to be left vulnerable to annexation by its bully neighbor, China.

However, the US Congress quickly passed the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) to ensure that the US would continue its robust engagement with Taiwan in the areas of security, commerce and culture. Most importantly, with its security guarantees, the TRA enabled Taiwan to continue functioning as an independent country.

With former US president Jimmy Carter’s signature on April 10, 1979, this important and lasting piece of legislation became the “law of the land” and served as the statutory basis for US-Taiwan relations from then on.

Thirty-three years later, the TRA still stands as a model of congressional leadership in the history of US foreign relations. Together with former US president Ronald Reagan’s “six assurances” three years later (which served as further guidelines for US-Taiwan relations), the TRA remains the cornerstone of a very mutually beneficial relationship between the US and Taiwan.

The foresight of the TRA’s drafters in affirming “the preservation and enhancement of the human rights of all the people on Taiwan” as explicit objectives of the US has contributed in large measure to make Taiwan what it is today — a vibrant, open society governed by democratic institutions.

However, even as I write, Taiwanese continue to live under the shadow of more than 1,400 short and medium-range ballistic missiles that China has aimed at them.

The PRC persists in claiming that Taiwan is a “renegade province,” refusing to renounce the use of force against Taiwan and preventing 23 million Taiwanese from declaring formal independence.

It is therefore important to recall that, as reaffirmed by the TRA, the US’ decision to establish diplomatic relations with the PRC was based on the expectation that the future of Taiwan would be determined by peaceful means.

The principled stance of the TRA on behalf of human rights has been instrumental to maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait for more than 30 years, in spite of the growing military threat posed by the PRC.

In gratitude and appreciation to the US, I invite my fellow countrymen and my former countrymen in Taiwan to join me in commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act.

Thank you, the US, for keeping Taiwan free.

Mark Kao is the president of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs.