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.
Republican Dan Burton said Taiwan was a “true friend.”
“They [Taiwanese] have been with us through thick and thin. There have been times when I think we have not been as good a friend to them as we should have been,” he said.
Mario Diaz-Balart, another Florida Republican, said: “The people of Taiwan should know and the world should know that the US Congress stands with this strong and proud democracy.”
And Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican and ranking member of the Committee, said: “This resolution recognizes the TRA as the cornerstone of the unbreakable relations that exist today between the US and Taiwan.”
“We are reconfirming our commitment to strengthen the US-Taiwan relationship and our support for the defensive needs of the Taiwanese people. Taiwan has become a beacon of hope to all who aspire to democracy in the Chinese cultural world. Now more than ever, we must ensure that the people of Taiwan are provided with the defensive weapons needed to ensure that no sudden change in the status quo by the use of force undermines their political aspirations,” he said.
“Now more than ever, we must ensure that Congress is fully consulted on a regular basis on both our overall relations with Taiwan and our planned future arms sales,” she said, adding: “Let us send a strong, unequivocal message to Beijing that we are unwavering in our commitment to democracy, to free markets and to the people of Taiwan.”
In response to the resolution, Taiwan's de facto embassy, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, released a statement saying it “deeply appreciated the bipartisan and uniform support of the US Congress.”
The Chinese government called on the US to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of China.
“Our position is consistent, we hope that the US side can support ... the one-China principle,” Fan Liqing (范麗青), spokeswoman of China's Taiwan Affairs Office, told journalists in a brief statement.
She was referring to diplomatic agreements between China and the US in which the US acknowledges Beijing's claim “that there is but one China and Taiwan is part of China.”
Congress passed the TRA after then-US president Jimmy Carter shifted recognition in 1979.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP
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