A new resolution calling for continued operations by the US military to support freedom of navigation in the Taiwan Strait has been introduced in the US House of Representatives. It also supports freedom of navigation rights in the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the Yellow Sea.
Sponsored by US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and supported by 18 Republicans and nine Democrats, it calls for a “peaceful and collaborative resolution of maritime territorial disputes in the South China Sea and its environs and other maritime areas adjacent to the East Asian mainland.”
The US Congress has recently criticized China’s actions in the region and rejects Beijing’s insistence on the right to regulate foreign military activities beyond its 12 nautical mile (22km) territorial limit. The resolution acknowledges that Taiwan, China and other countries have disputed territorial claims over the Spratly Islands (南沙群島) and the Paracel Islands (西沙群島).
“The United States has a national economic and security interest in ensuring that no party uses force unilaterally to assert maritime territorial claims in East Asia,” the resolution said.
‘NO PERMISSION NEEDED’
It repeats the statement made in 2008 by former head of US Pacific Command Admiral Timothy Keating that “We [the United States] don’t need China’s permission to go through the Taiwan Strait. It’s international water. We will exercise our free right of passage whenever and wherever we choose as we have done repeatedly in the past and we’ll do in the future.”
The resolution condemns the use of force by naval, maritime security and fishing vessels from China in the South China Sea and the East China Sea and says that “overt threats and gun boat diplomacy” are not constructive means for settling disputes.
Ros-Lehtinen’s resolution was introduced as Government Information Office Minister Philip Yang (楊永明) ended a week-long visit to the US during which he addressed the Asia Society in New York, the University of Virginia and a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.
Yang stressed that Taiwan was a peacemaker in the region and that the US should sell it the 66 advanced F-16C/D aircraft it is seeking. A Pentagon report ordered by Congress last year on Taiwan’s air power has still not been released, although inside sources say that it was completed nearly six months ago.
According to the sources it is being held by the US Department of State because US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton fears it will provide powerful ammunition for those in favor of the F-16C/D sale to Taipei. Clinton and the White House are believed to be reluctant to approve the sale because of the damage it will almost certainly cause to US-China relations.
US Senator John Cornyn has put a hold on the nomination of Bill Burns as US deputy secretary of state as a form of leverage to force US President Barack Obama’s administration to release the Pentagon report and to clarify its policy on arms sales to Taiwan.
“My primary concern is that the Obama administration has allowed China to basically wield a veto over a US arms sale that is in our national security interests, and I am troubled by the precedent this might set for the future of US-China relations,” Cornyn said on Thursday. “It is outrageous, but not surprising, that they are blocking a trade deal that supports many high-skilled jobs across the nation and would give our stalled economy a much-needed boost.”
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