Thu, Jun 17, 2004 - Page 1 News List

`One China' review under way

RE-EXAMINATION An academic at the Heritage Foundation says the US is studying the longstanding policy with an eye to debunking the myth that Taiwan is part of China

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The Bush administration is already conducting a secret review of its "one China" policy, although the review is fairly narrow and technical and will not necessarily result in a decision to support Taiwan's independence, a leading Washington Taiwan specialist says.

John Tkacik, an academic at the Heritage Foundation, told the Taipei Times that the review aims to debunk the myth that Taiwan is part of China and to clarify just what a "one China" policy means.

He was commenting on a report issued in Washington on Tuesday by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which recommended that the Bush administration and Congress "conduct a fresh assessment of the `one China' policy, given the changing realities in China and Taiwan."

"I think the State Department is already reviewing the `one China' policy," Tkacik said.

The review, he believes, began before Vice President Dick Cheney went to Beijing in April. Even before that trip, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesmen made it clear that Beijing would use the trip to push Washington to reassert its "one China" policy, as well as to reduce arms sales to Taiwan.

The review began when the department was briefing Cheney for the trip, and "they are still in the throes of trying to figure out where to go with [the policy]," Tkacik said.

The first indication of the review came on April 21 in various comments made by Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly as he testified before Congress on Taiwan policy in the wake of President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) re-election.

Kelly's testimony reflected "a new boldness to address the `one China' issue, but in very vague terms," Tkacik said.

"I think it has finally hit home to them that it's not feasible to conduct a foreign policy based on this myth, and that the foreign policy has to be based on the values of the American people," namely, he said, "supporting democracy and opposing tyranny."

"The `one China' policy does not mean that Taiwan is part of China," said Tkacik, who is one of Washington's most ardent supporters of scrapping the policy. "It is simply a bumper sticker that we use to assuage China's sensibilities while at the same time cautioning them that we don't accept Taiwan as part of China."

US-China commission chairman Roger Robinson made it clear that his panel's recommendation stemmed in large part from China's military buildup across the Strait and from Beijing's recent hard-line opposition to further democracy in Hong Kong.

"We think that realities on the ground have changed in a material-enough way that warrant reassessing the `one China' policy," he said at a press conference unveiling the group's latest report to Congress.

Robinson said the panel was not trying to decide the outcome of the assessment.

"We do not have a specific goal," Robinson told reporters. However, the fact that "Taiwan is evolving in a direction of taking a new look at their destiny and future, Congress should be alert to the fact that we can't have a static attitude" toward the situation.

"It is not our job to prejudge how such an assessment should come out. This is a complicated and delicate matter, and there are lots of forces and factors that come into play," he said.

He is also concerned that a reassessment might trigger a Chinese attack on Taiwan.

"That's why we're not trying to take the next step and bias an outcome. Nobody's interested in precipitating a problem that doesn't exist today," he said.

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