Complaining that the human rights of the people of Taiwan have been "severely abridged" by the exclusion of the nation from the UN, a group of 19 US representatives introduced legislation to support Taiwan's membership in the global body.
It is the sense of Congress that "Taiwan and its 23 million people deserve membership in the United Nations," the measure declared.
"The United States should fulfill the commitment it made in the 1994 Taiwan Policy Review to more actively support Taiwan's membership in appropriate international organizations," the resolution said, adding that the UN should be included among those organizations.
"Taiwan has dramatically improved its record on human rights and routinely holds fair and free elections in a multiparty system, as evidenced by Taiwan's second [sic] democratic presidential election in 2000 and 2004, in which Mr Chen Shui-bian [陳水扁] was elected as President," the resolution said.
"The 23 million people in Taiwan are not represented in the United Nations and their human rights as citizens of the world are therefore severely abridged," it said.
The resolution came as Chen reiterated his intention to hold a referendum during next year's presidential election supporting Taiwan's entry to the UN using the name "Taiwan" and the Bush administration's strong and vocal opposition to the referendum.
Several of the co-sponsors of the bill have in recent months repeatedly spoken out in favor of Taiwan's UN membership, as Chen's campaign to hold the poll has progressed.
The resolution does not specifically mention the planned referendum. It cites cases where "the world community has reacted positively to Taiwan's desire for international participation," such as its membership in the Asian Development Bank and APEC, and as an observer to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the predecessor to the WTO.
It also noted US support for Taiwan's participation in the WHO.
"Taiwan has much to contribute to the work and funding of the United Nations," the resolution said.
The Taiwan Policy Review, undertaken by former president Bill Clinton shortly after he took office in 1992, aimed at improving relations with Taiwan, but contained new restrictions on bilateral US-Taiwan interaction.
While the Clinton administration vowed to support membership for Taiwan in international groups that do not require statehood, it agreed only to "look for ways to have Taiwan's voice heard in organizations where Taiwan's membership is not possible."
Specifically, the review stated that "the US will not support Taiwan's membership in organizations such as the UN, which only admits states," an administration fact sheet issued at the time said.
The representatives sponsoring the resolution included some of Taiwan's biggest supporters on Capitol Hill. Scott Garrett of New Jersey was the chief sponsor, while others include Tom Tancredo of Colorado and the two chairpersons of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, Steve Chabot of Ohio and Dana Rohrabacher of California.
The proposal has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which has proven itself amenable to bringing up and approving pro-Taiwan bills this year. It is not clear when or if the committee will bring up this measure.
In Taipei yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the bill.
"We appreciate the support of the US lawmakers for Taiwan to seek UN membership using the name `Taiwan' and we hope that the [Bush] administration will hear their voices," acting spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh said. "The UN membership bid meets the expectations of all Taiwanese people and this will not change the `status quo.' We hope to gain more support from the international community despite China's suppression."
Additional reporting by AFP