A group of US lawmakers visiting Taiwan warned China yesterday against interfering in Taiwan's upcoming presidential election, saying such provocation could result in trade sanctions from the US Congress.
China could be faced with a congressional vote against extending special trade status, delaying Beijing's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), Representative Matt Salmon told reporters.
If Beijing resorts to intimidating Taiwan -- as it did in 1996 when it launched missiles which landed close to Taiwan's shores -- it would "severely jeopardize, if not completely undermine, a congressional vote on permanent NTR (normal trading relations)," said Salmon.
PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES
Permanent NTR, previously known as "most-favored-nation" (MFN) status, would extend trade privileges without requiring annual reviews by Congress.
The group said they had already relayed the message to leaders in Beijing.
"I think our comments were registered and understood," said Salmon, adding that Chinese President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) made no outright commitments that military threats would not be undertaken.
Rep. John Shadegg agreed.
"The trip is set in the context of WTO and permanent NTR ... [China] wants this [WTO] agreement and permanent NTR very badly," he said.
Salmon has led a congressional delegation on a tour of China, Hong Kong, and ended their trip in Taiwan yesterday.
They had met with Jiang and Beijing's top cross-strait negotiator Wang Doahan (
Salmon suggested that there is sufficient support in Congress to block China's accession to the WTO if Beijing was to take provocative action against Taiwan during the upcoming presidential election.
The delegation also urged leaders on this side of the Taiwan Strait to be cautious in their rhetoric.
In their meeting with President Lee Teng-hui (
"President Lee's statements were over-reacted to by the PRC. Our rhetoric and his rhetoric should be used with caution," Salmon said.
Lee openly repositioned Taiwan's sovereignty as "state-to-state" with China in July.
Beijing subsequently canceled Wang's tentative visit in the fall, and staged military exercises along the coast of the Taiwan Strait.
Lee conveyed to the congressmen that China has twisted the meaning of "one-China" to mean only the People's Republic of China.
He said the Shanghai Communique allowed open expressions of "one-China," but under severe pressure from Beijing, the Republic of China has ceased to exist and was even degraded to a "provincial government."
Wang, eager to resume cross-strait dialogue, told the delegation in Shanghai that "we all want a `one-China,' but the perimeter of what that means is very flexible." Beijing has said that Wang's tentative visit would not take place until after the March election.
The bipartisan delegation, also consisting of Reps. Bob Etheridge, Tim Roemer, Rick Hill and Patrick Toomey is to depart today.
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