US Representative Ed Royce, a senior member of the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, said on Saturday that US-Taiwan relations were a barometer of the US’ role in Asia.
He said no serious member of the US Congress was considering the proposals increasingly heard from academic circles to abandon Taiwan.
“Would sacrificing Taiwan result in China taking a firmer line on North Korea or Iran’s nuclear programs?” Royce said. “Of course not. More likely, China would conclude that the US is weak and can be manipulated. The Chinese would pocket our concessions and move on.”
Letting US support for Taiwan slip would have a negative impact on relations with treaty allies in Southeast Asia who are worried about freedom of navigation and Chinese resource claims in the South China Sea, he said.
“I think members of Congress understand the ‘abandon Taiwan’ hypothesis for what it is — naive,” Royce said. “It ignores our historic ties and the critical role the US has played in bolstering Taiwan’s democratic system.”
“But bad ideas have a way of creeping into the mainstream. So I raise it as a rallying point and challenge. This talk of abandonment needs to be stomped out before it gains traction,” he added.
Royce was addressing a Formosa Foundation policy forum in Los Angeles just a day after the New York Times published an op-ed article calling on US President Barack Obama to sell out Taiwan in favor of China.
The article has caused concern among Asia specialists, with some claiming that it was irresponsible for the newspaper to publish it.
Those arguing for the abandonment of Taiwan fail to understand the role that the US-Taiwan relationship plays in the region, Royce said.
“Tensions between China and its neighbors have heightened at the same time that cross-strait relations with Taiwan have been on a more even keel,” he said. “This undercuts the theory that China’s dispute with Taiwan is the only thing standing in the way of China’s peaceful rise.”
“Peace comes through strength. Sacrifice the traditional US relationship with Taiwan and conflict becomes more likely,” he said.
Royce said Taiwan’s trade with China was now less restricted than its trade with the US and he called for a free-trade agreement with Taipei.
“When I confront US officials about the need to deepen our economic engagement with Taiwan, they point to narrow, politically charged issues like US beef exports as holding up progress,” he said.
“Beef represents less than 1 percent of our bilateral trade relationship. Issues surrounding beef imports have affected other trading partnerships in Asia, but only with Taiwan did the US make the decision to suspend our entire trade dialogue over the issue,” Royce added.
Executive director of the Formosa Foundation Terri Giles later said: “Such emphatic support for Taiwan is valuable — especially at a time when some are suggesting that we break away from the island.”
Royce was one of the Foreign Affairs Committee members to introduce the “Taiwan Policy Act of 2011” last month.
The proposed bill would help guarantee future weapons sales to Taiwan, encourage visits by US Cabinet officials, promote Taiwan’s status in international organizations and include Taiwan in the US’ visa-waiver program.
He also announced on Saturday that the bill would be considered by the full committee on Thursday.
“We have been working flat out to advance this legislation. It could rejuvenate political, economic and security ties,” Giles said.
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