US panel urges Congress to end Taiwan's isolation

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

Sat, Nov 18, 2006 - Page 1

A high-level congressional advisory panel on Thursday urged the US government to carry out a long-term policy aimed at securing Taiwan's membership in international organizations and activities to break China's global campaign to isolate Taiwan internationally.

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, in an annual report to Congress, paid special attention to China's efforts to block Taiwan's participation in organiuzations around the world.

The report comes as Taiwanese representatives are fighting Chinese efforts to limit Taiwan's participation in sessions of the APEC meeting in Hanoi, a coincidence that seems to underline the importance of the recommendation.

The recommendation on Taiwan's isolation is one of the commission's "top 10" of 44 recommendations on China which were drawn up after listening to more than 120 experts on all aspects of China policy in a series of hearings, and taking trips to Taiwan and China over the past year.

All told, the report made six recommendations related to Taiwan, most of which were made public earlier, and which mostly deal with China's military buildup and the danger that poses to Taiwan now and in the near future.

"The commission recommends that in response to China's efforts to isolate Taiwan," the report said, "Congress encourage the administration to implement a long-term policy to facilitate Taiwan's participation in international organizations and activities for which statehood is not a prerequisite."

In addition, it said, "Congress should instruct the administration to report annually on its actions to ensure that Taiwan is not isolated in the world community."

The commission "would like to see Taiwan able to take part in public health work, we would like to see Taiwan participate more actively in counter-proliferation activities, in international economic organizations, and we have urged Congress to encourage the administration to be more active in this regard," commission chairman Larry Wortzel said at a press conference where the report was released.

While the Bush administration and previous administrations have had a policy supporting Taiwan's membership in organizations without statehood requirements, the proposed policy would presumably be more formal, codified and wide-ranging, with the annual reports to Congress serving as benchmarks toward success.

Commission members visited Taiwan last summer for talks with government officials, think tanks, business people and US citizens posted in Taiwan.

As a result of the visit, the commission found that cross-strait relations were being complicated by "China's persistent efforts to economically, militarily and diplomatically isolate Taiwan from integrating in the regional economy and prevent it from playing a role in the international community, the report said."

A number of people inside and outside of government emphasized that concern during the visit, the report said.

The report also relayed Tai-wan's concern over US free trade agreements with other countries, and hopes that "the United States would agree to vigorous negotiations intended to produce a Taiwan-United States free trade agreement at the earliest possible date."

Such an FTA "is a strategic necessity without which Taiwan fears its ability to survive and prosper in the Western Pacific/East Asian region, and the world at large, will begin to erode," the report said.

On the military and strategic side, the commission urged Congress to "encourage" the Legis-lative Yuan to approve the purchase of US weapons which has been held up in the legislature for more than two years, "or alternative systems that will enhance Taiwan's defense capability." It also suggested that "additional arms requests from Taiwan be considered by the US government on their merits."

It also complains that Beijing's military modernization is giving China an ever greater military edge in the Taiwan Strait, coupled with China's increasing capability to deny access to any US force coming to Taiwan's aid.

"The commission concludes that Taiwan's ability to defend itself from attack and intimidation is in doubt, and that China could impede the United States' ability to intervene successfully in a crisis or conflict," it said.

In that regard, the commission sees "a substantial agreement among experts" that a "window of vulnerability" will exist between 2008 and 2015 impeding the US ability to intervene against a Chinese military attack, because of Chinese military advances and delays in US counter-measures.

"If the United States had to exercise any military operations in the Western Pacific, it would certainly make it more difficult for the United States to do so, and would impede the speed and flexibility with which we could act," Wortzel said.