Fri, Jan 09, 2004 - Page 1 News List

US Congress set to affirm Taiwan ties

FRIENDS IN THE US Following US President George W. Bush's stern words for Taiwan's leader, the US Congress is preparing a wide-ranging resolution supporting Chen

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan supporters in the US Congress are preparing to introduce a sweeping resolution in support of Taiwan when they reassemble later this month after an extended year-end holiday break.

Prospects for such a bill have unnerved China, prompting its US ambassador last month to send a letter to all members of Congress urging them to reject the planned legislation.

The resolution will endorse President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) plan for an election-day referendum on China's missile threat, demand China renounce the use of force against Taiwan and recognize Taiwan's separate status from China, according to people familiar with the efforts to frame the resolution.

The measure will be based on a bill approved nearly unanimously by the House of Representatives in July 1998 in response to then president Bill Clinton's declaration of his "three noes" policy during a visit to Shanghai the previous month.

Many in Washington at the time felt that Clinton's declaration marked a sharp departure in America's underlying support for Taiwan and a basic shift in US policy.

The "three noes" rejected Taiwan independence, a "one China, one Taiwan" policy and Taiwan membership in international bodies requiring statehood for membership.

The planned bill will respond to President George W. Bush's public personal rebuke of Chen and his referendum plan after his Dec. 9 White House meeting with visiting Chinese premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶), which came just as Congress was wrapping up last year's session.

That statement, many Taiwan backers in Washington -- including Bush's conservative supporters -- felt, marked an unsavory accommodation of Beijing's wishes at the expense of Taiwan. Many saw parallels between Bush's and Clinton's pronouncements.

What will be different from the 1998 resolution will be a statement of support for the referendum and the condemnation of the Chinese missile buildup across the Strait from Taiwan, which were not present as issues in 1998.

While the wording of the planned referendum is not yet finalized, the 1998 measure recognized that at no time since the People's Republic of China was established in 1949 has Taiwan been under its control.

It affirmed US commitment to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act, called for settlement of cross-strait relations by peaceful means, committed Washington to supply Taiwan with arms sufficient for its self defense, sought a renunciation of the use of force by China and supported Taiwan's membership in international organizations. The 1998 bill also referred to Taiwan as "one of the world's premier democracies."

In addition to the planned resolution, a separate resolution introduced last November in support of the referendum is now before the House International Relations Committee, but it's fate is uncertain.

In his letter, dated Dec. 30, Chinese Ambassador Yang Jiechi (楊潔箎) urged the members of Congress to "prevent the above-mentioned draft resolution from passage in the US Congress."

He said the bill "runs counter to the relevant commitment of the United States Government" in its "one China" policy, and its commitments in the three US-China communiques.

"Facts have shown," Yang wrote, "that Chen Shui-bian is a trouble-maker. He cares about nothing but his own political agenda, ie `Taiwan independence' and his own re-election."

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