Wed, Nov 28, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan loses key Capitol Hill ally: Lott plans to retire


Taiwan is about to lose another of its main supporters in the US Congress, after Senate minority whip Trent Lott announced he would resign his Senate seat by the end of this year.

The 66-year-old Republican senator made the announcement on Monday in his hometown of Pascagoula, Mississippi. He gave no reason, other than to say: "It is time for us to do something else."

Lott's successor as minority whip could be another long-term supporter of Taiwan, Jon Kyle of Arizona, who now holds the No. 3 leadership position in the Senate after Lott, according to early speculation among some political pundits in Washington.

In announcing his retirement, Lott joined Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo, one of Taiwan's leading champions in the House of Representatives, who recently announced plans to retire when his term expires next year.

Lott has been one of Taiwan's leading supporters, especially during his tenure as Senate majority leader from 1996 to 2001 during the presidency of Bill Clinton, with whose Taiwan policy he disagreed. In January, he was named co-chairman of the Senate Taiwan Caucus.

One of the last remaining members of Congress who voted for the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979, Lott was a main supporter of the Taiwan security enhancement act, a failed attempt that was introduced by former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms to substantially enhance military cooperation and joint action between the US and Taiwan.

He was a vocal opponent of Clinton's so-called "three noes," which rejected the idea of Taiwan independence and the idea of two Chinas. He was also a champion of congressional efforts in the late 1990s to make sure that Taiwan was admitted to the WTO at about the same time as China, whose entry was a main foreign policy goal of Clinton.

Last month he cosponsored a Senate bill to allow President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and other high-level Taiwanese officials to visit Washington. The House unanimously approved a parallel bill in July.

While the Senate was a willing partner with the House in the 1990s and early 2000s -- when Lott was majority leader -- to push legislation to advance Taiwan's interests, the chamber has become virtually moribund on the issue in the recent years.

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