Thu, Mar 26, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Congress rallies in support of Taiwan

NOT THE COMMUNIQUES Despite protests from Beijing, bipartisan efforts reaffirmed the US' strong support for Taiwan's democracy and a promise to help it defend itself

By William Lowther  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The US House of Representatives has reversed the work of a subcommittee and put the teeth back into a resolution offering strong support for Taiwan on the 30th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).

In a series of sometimes dramatic speeches on the floor of the House, members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs voiced extraordinary praise for Taiwan and pledged to help preserve its independence.

Passing the newly robust resolution unanimously, members of the House seemed to be fired up by an attempt last week by Eni Faleomavaega, a Democrat from American Samoa, to water down the resolution.

Faleomavaega, chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, changed the wording of the original resolution when it reached his subcommittee before going to the full House.

He removed a reference to the TRA being the “cornerstone” of US relations with Taiwan and said that it was simply “vital” to relations.

Congressional insiders said later that in making the change Faleomavaega had bowed to Chinese pressure.

Beijing wants the three joint US-China communiques to be known as the “cornerstone” of the US-Taiwan-China triangular relationship because in them the US acknowledges the Chinese position that Taiwan is part of China.

But on learning from the Taipei Times about Faleomavaega's actions, Coen Blaauw, executive director of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), launched a campaign to get the all-important word “cornerstone” put back into the resolution.

FAPA alerted members of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus to the significance of the change, members of FAPA's professionals group sent hundreds of e-mails protesting the change, and association officials talked directly to influential Foreign Affairs Committee officials.

As a result, the resolution was changed back to its original wording and the word “cornerstone” was reinserted.

To emphasize the point, several members of Congress deliberately used “cornerstone” in their speeches on the floor of the House.

“It was a meaningful victory,” Blaauw said.

Howard Berman, a California Democrat and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said on introducing the amended resolution: “Taiwan has the potential to play a very constructive role in international affairs. I would urge that special consideration be given to Taiwan's desire to gain observer status with the World Health Assembly later this spring. I urge China to do more to reach out to both the people and the government of Taiwan.”

“I am confident that the Taiwan Relations Act will remain the cornerstone of our relationship with Taiwan,” he said.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, said: “This resolution reaffirms the United States' commitment to the Republic of China on Taiwan and describes the Taiwan Relations Act as the cornerstone of US-Taiwan relations.”

“It stresses the concept of peace through strength and has served as a key deterrent to Communist Chinese military aggression and its attempts at forced reunification. As members of Congress, we will do all that is necessary so that the people of Taiwan will have the tools they need to defend themselves. We must, and we will, continue to remind the world that Taiwan's security is of the utmost importance to the US Congress,” he added.

“We must do everything in our power to continue protecting Taiwan and ensuring its survival,” said Shelley Berkley, a Democrat from Nevada.

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