Tue, Sep 06, 2011 - Page 1 News List

New rules needed on Taiwan: Berman

IT’S CRAZY:The representative said that US policy placing limits on interacting with Taiwanese politicians was problematic because it served China’s interest, not the US’

By William Lowther  /  Staff Reporter in Washington

US Representative Howard Berman voices his support for continued US arms sales to -Taiwan during his speech at the Taiwan Center in Los Angeles, California on Saturday.

Photo: CNA

US Representative Howard Berman, the most senior Democrat on the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, wants to lift restrictions on Taiwanese political leaders visiting the US.

In a speech to the Formosa Foundation in Los Angeles on Saturday, Berman blamed pressure from China for keeping the restrictions in place.

“It’s a crazy thing. Why does some foreign government get to tell the American government and the American people whether or not and under what circumstances a leader from Taiwan can come to this country?” he said.

“It is the right of democratic leaders to interface with us directly and not just by telephone. It -bothers me that our policies restrict that. And these policies are in place not for any American interest, but simply to serve somebody else’s interest,” Berman said.

Later, Berman said he wanted the restrictions removed to allow top Taiwanese leaders to visit Washington for direct talks.

He wanted to “build and strengthen” the political-security component in relations between Washington and Taipei, he said, adding that Taiwan was a model for “proponents of democracy.”

Formosa Foundation executive director Terri Giles said Taiwan had no better friend in Washington than Berman.

“There are dozens of items relating to Taiwan for which we are fighting. The Formosa Foundation is actively working to dramatically challenge the conventional wisdom regarding Taiwan and Howard Berman is our partner,” she said.

“What if China attacks Taiwan? What if it puts a blockade on Taiwan? What if it fires missiles?” Berman asked.

“I believe very strongly that the United States must continue to supply Taiwan with weapons so that it can defend itself,” he said.

“Specifically, we should supply Taiwan with the more advanced F-16[C/D] jets. Taiwan’s air force urgently needs its older planes upgraded and it needs the new advanced F-16s as well,” he said. “This is something we ought to do and we ought to do it now.”

China, he said, could lessen Taiwan’s need for the fighters simply by renouncing the use of force against Taiwan.

“We have an obligation to a friend and a democratic ally to make sure it can defend itself,” Berman said.

The US should never “knuckle under” to Beijing, he said.

“Taiwan is a bipartisan issue. We fight about everything back in Washington, but not Taiwan. It’s quite remarkable,” he said.

Berman said the Chinese military was “nowhere near” the US military in terms of capability.

However, Beijing has been spending huge amounts of money building up its military and China’s neighbors in South and Southeast Asia were getting nervous, he said.

As a result, he said, some of these countries were improving their relations with the US and for that development “we can thank China.”

Berman said he would meet Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) when she visited Washington later this month and that he would try to arrange for her to meet all members of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

He said that the US would recognize and work with whoever won January’s presidential election next year and would closely monitor the election.

“The real test of a democracy is not just holding elections, but conducting a peaceful transition of power should the opposition party win,” he said.

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