Sat, Jul 17, 2004 - Page 1 News List

US Congress backs TRA resolution

OVERWHELMING The US House of Representatives voted 400-18 in favor of a resolution reaffirming Washington's commitment to peace in the Taiwan Strait

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

By an overwhelming 400-18 vote, the US House of Representatives Thursday approved a resolution reaffirming the US' "unwavering commitment" to the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act that established Washington's unofficial ties to Taiwan after the Carter administration switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in December 1978.

The resolution supports a strong defense commitment to Taiwan, encourages further cross-strait dialogue and argues in favor of increased visits by Taiwan officials to the US.

It also expresses Washington's "grave concern" over China's missile buildup across the Taiwan Strait, and urges the president to raise this concern with Chinese leaders.

The vote was aimed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the TRA, which came in April.

"Congress reaffirms its unwavering commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act as the cornerstone of United States relations with Taiwan," the resolution, which is not binding, said.

The bill said it "is and will continue to be" US policy to "further encourage and expand extensive commercial, cultural and other relations" between Washington and Taiwan over the coming quarter century. It calls the Chinese missile buildup a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific, and pledges to make available to Taiwan "defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability."

The bill also notes that the TRA requires Washington to "maintain the capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan."

In turn, the House bill urges the US government to encourage Taiwan to "devote sufficient financial resources to the defense of their island."

During a debate on the bill on the House floor Wednesday, a small but vocal group of opponents to the bill raised questions about the obligations it makes for Washington to defend Taiwan militarily.

Representative Ron Paul, a Texas Republican, likened the bill to a commitment to an "entangling alliance" which the US' first president, George Washington, warned against in his farewell address more than two centuries ago.

"I do not believe that we or a generation 25 years ago has the moral right to obligate another generation to such an overwhelming commitment," such as a war with China, "especially if it does not involve an attack on our national security," he said.

"Frankly, it is a stretch to say that settling that dispute over there [between China and Taiwan] has something to do with an attack on our national security," he said, adding that "the Constitution does not give us the authority to assume responsibility for everybody."

Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat, argued that the TRA "must not be considered a blank check to commit US forces to defend any pursuit of independence by political leaders in Taiwan ... I cannot and I will not support an ambiguous resolution that could one day serve as a premise to commit American sons and daughters to defend the reckless political actions of Taiwan['s] leaders," she said.

Taiwan's supporters, however, praised the TRA. New Jersey Republican Christopher Smith called the TRA "one of Congress' most important and enduring pieces of legislation," that has ensured Taiwan's security and "exceeded expectations."

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