US legislator intrigued by ‘one country, two areas’

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Tue, May 22, 2012 - Page 1

US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen yesterday said she was intrigued by the “one country, two areas (一國兩區)” formula advocated by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) during his inauguration speech and added that she would seek clarification about its implications.

“We asked him [Ma] about the statement he had made. We asked other individuals as well about that phrase and how it could be interpreted in different ways,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

The chairwoman of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, who is leading a US congressional delegation on a visit to Taipei, took questions from reporters before a luncheon banquet hosted by Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building yesterday.

The delegation met Ma and Mainland Affairs Council Minister Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) in the morning.

The way Ma has characterized the cross-strait “status quo” as “two areas” under “one Republic of China [ROC]” framework in his speech drew the ire of pan-green groups over concerns about the nation’s sovereignty.

Asked about her views on the formula and its critics, Ros-Lehtinen was reluctant to comment, but her answers implied that the issue was one of the concerns raised by the delegation during its visits with government officials and party leaders.

“It’s not up to the United States Congress or our delegation to decide for the Taiwanese people and government what best strategy they should pursue,” she said.

“We certainly have our opinions [on the phrase]. We may not be in unison on that, but many of us are very free in expressing our opinions when we meet with the various leaders, as well as opposition leaders,” said Ros-Lehtinen, who is scheduled to meet Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members and former DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) this week.

Ros-Lehtinen did not give details of the meetings, but said “our concerns have always been that we want Taiwan to remain the beacon of hope, of opportunity, of freedom, of prosperity, of human rights, just as we hope that our country will always be that shining city on the hill as [former] US president Ronald Reagan said.”

The US will not impose on Taiwan and its people ideas about what they should do because “they freely express themselves and opinions in their voting” and the US “respected the process,” she said.

Executive Yuan spokesperson Hu Yu-wei (胡幼偉) said yesterday that the concept of “one country, two areas” was a matter of “common sense” that “every senior-high school student” has already absorbed.

Every senior-high school student knows about Article 4 of the Constitution regarding national territory, based on which “we have sovereignty over the mainland [sic], but we admit that we have no jurisdiction over it,” Hu said.

The article in question that Hu cited does not specifically make reference to the ROC’s territory as including the land area encompassed by the People’s Republic of China or a “mainland area.” Instead, it states that the ROC’s territory “according to its existing national boundaries shall not be altered except by resolution” of the now-defunct National Assembly.

The phrase “one country, two areas” was not a newly created term, but one in accordance with the Act Governing the Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例), a law enacted to meet the needs of cross-strait interactions, Hu said.

Hu said the phrase was different from the “one country, two systems” formulation created by Beijing to allow Hong Kong to have a different political system from China.

On security issues, Ros-Lehtinen said the US Congress had acted in a bipartisan manner to provide Taiwan with more sophisticated military hardware to meet its defense needs, including F-16C/D aircraft and diesel-electric submarines.

Asked about Taiwan’s budget constraints, Ros-Lehtinen said “we are encouraging Taiwan to beef up its allotment for its defense allocation. We think it’s in the best interest of Taiwan and it’s also in the best interest of the US.”

“We hope that Taiwan does its share and we will also continue to do our share. It is [of] mutual benefit to our countries to make sure that [Taiwan’s] defense allocation is raised a bit, and Taiwan will know that the US will have her back,” she said.

At a banquet with DPP members last night, Ros-Lehtinen described the missiles deployed by China against Taiwan as “a modern version” of the Cuban missile crisis and highlighted the importance of preserving Taiwan’s democracy to serve as a beacon to brighten the future of people in China to build its democracy.

Beijing “bullies” Taiwan’s democracy by deploying 1,500 -missiles across the Taiwan Strait, which was no wider than the Straits of Florida that separates Cuba and the US, said Ros-Lehtinen, who moved from Cuba to the US when she was eight.

“So I think Taiwan today is facing a modern version of what we encountered in the Cuban missile crisis, yet you have demonstrated to Beijing that political power does not come from gun barrels, but from ballot boxes,” she said.

Taiwan’s struggle for democracy ranks at the top of many important moments since the end of World War II, a list included the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, the People Power Revolution in the Philippines, the fall of the Berlin Wall and democratic revolution in Cuba, she said.

“In the Chinese Confucius culture world, [Taiwan’s democracy] is a precious achievement, which must be most preserved and protected,” she said.

China is years behind Taiwan when it comes to democratic values and the rule of law, she said, adding that democratic achievements in Taiwan would “shine as a beacon across the narrow Strait to the hundreds of millions of slaves, under the dark tyranny on the Chinese mainland [sic].”

She said that Taiwan offers an “irreplaceable” civic lesson to the Chinese that the iron curtain on the borders with communist states can be broken, which is why China has tried to isolate Taiwan and denied it international space.

Ros-Lehtinen said she would continue to work to assure that US-Taiwan relations will be strengthened in the months and years ahead.

“Together, let’s work together to ensure that there is no backsliding in Taiwan democracy,” she said.