Leaders in the House of Represen-tatives have decided to postpone a floor vote on the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act until next year to avoid rising tensions with China, the Washington Post reported yesterday.
The newspaper said the move was made to avoid further upsetting China amid crucial World Trade Organization negotiations between Washington and Beijing, which are expected to come to a head this month.
The report generated quick and angry reaction in Taiwan yester-day. "With WTO in Seattle in late November, apparently the administration had persuaded the house not to poison the atmosphere," said Parris Chang (
Pleas from the Clinton administration for Congress to hold off on the vote were "unavailing," the Post said yesterday.
The report said members of the house's International Relations Committee, which effortlessly passed the vote last week 32-6, had received phone calls from Secretary of State Madeline Madeleine Albright and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger asking them to drop the issue.
The act was originally expected to pass in the House, controlled by the Republicans, some time this week without any serious opposition, but it is sure to meet strong opposition in the Senate, where the Republican majority was not so large, analysts said.
The legislation seeks to enhance US-Taiwan military relations and beef up sales of advanced weaponry to Taiwan.
Yet even if the act dies in the Senate, its passing in the House would be significant, said Su Chin-chiang (
"In the end the House can use this to give China a little pressure, just to let it know there is enough public support for what the bill represents," Su said.
Maybe then, he added, China would consider why the bill was drafted in the first place.
"China should think about its own actions and reflect on what it has done that would cause [Congress] to react this way," Su said.
While the decision by Congress had given the US administration some room to breathe, the issue is not likely to die down soon.
"It could very well become an election issue, if Clinton does not handle it well," the DPP's Chang said.
Judging by weekend media coverage, it already is. In an article on the Washington Post's opinion page, David Lampton, former president of the National Committee on US-China Relations, called the act a "Security Reduction Act." The comment was seen by analysts as being in tune with Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth, who recently called it the "Taiwan Security Destabilization Act."
Lampton argued that pushing China up against the wall would only spark an arms race, further frustrate US-China relations, give Taiwan more leeway to go out on a limb and challenge China and upset the balance the Taiwan Relations Act had so far ensured.
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