Fri, Mar 28, 2003 - Page 1 News List

US Congress to discuss Taiwan

NEW LEGISLATION A bill that reaffirms Washington's commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act will also include clauses on China's missiles across the Strait

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The leadership of the Taiwan Caucus in the US Congress has introduced legislation to reaffirm Washington's commitment to Taiwan's peace and security in the face of a continued buildup of Chinese missiles across the Taiwan Strait.

The legislation recommits Washington to the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and urges the George W. Bush administration to make greater efforts to persuade China to renounce the use of force against Taiwan.

The bill would mark the 24th anniversary of the act, which was signed on April 10, 1979. It was drawn up in response to the Jimmy Carter administration's decision the previous December to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing at the expense of relations with Taipei.

The law established semi-official relations between Washington and Taipei and commits the US to providing Taiwan with sufficient arms to defend itself.

The bill was introduced in the House by the four co-chairmen of the caucus, which was formed last year to promote Taiwan's interests in Congress, monitor issues of importance to Taiwan and inform other lawmakers about Taiwan concerns.

The new legislation in the House calls on the Bush administration to "reaffirm its unwavering commitment to the TRA as the cornerstone of United States relations with Taiwan."

It expresses Congress' "grave concern regarding the military modernization and weapons procurement program of the PRC, and particularly regarding its deployment of hundreds of missiles in Fujian Province directed toward Taiwan."

"The president should direct all appropriate United States officials to raise these grave concerns regarding military threats to Taiwan with officials from the People's Republic of China," the measure says.

It also calls on the president to seek from Chinese leaders "an immediate and unequivocal public renunciation of any use of force, or threat to use force, against Taiwan."

Among other things, the bill urges the administration to encourage further dialogue between Taiwan and China, and states that US policy should be to publicly support a US-Taiwan free-trade agreement.

Taiwan supporters cheered the introduction of the measure. Wu Ming-chi (吳明基), the president of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a Taiwan-Washington lobbying organization, called the bill "significant."

"President Bush has been most forceful in dealing with Iraq," Wu said.

"Through this resolution, House members ask that he put some muscle to work and press China's leaders to do a dramatic U-turn in its attempt to intimidate Taiwan," he said.

The bill would not have the force of law if passed by Congress, but nevertheless expresses the "sense of Congress" in renewed support for the TRA.

The legislation notes that Taiwan is a "full-fledged, multi-party democracy respecting human rights and civil liberties," and says that any attempt to determine

Taiwan's future "by other than peaceful means" and without the "express consent of the people of Taiwan would be considered of grave concern to the United States."

Taiwan supporters in Washington appear to expect the resolution to gain easy passage, at least in the House and probably in the Senate, as most other pro-Taiwan bills have in the past.

According to several sources, China is estimated to have amassed as many as 400 short-range missiles in Fujian Province across the Strait from Taiwan and is adding 50 to the total every year.

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