The race to become the next chairman of the powerful House International Relations Committee of the US Congress is underway, and the decision could have an important impact on the committee's attitude toward Taiwan and China issues.
The current chairman, New Jersey Republican Benjamin Gilman, one of the strongest Taiwan supporters in Congress, must leave the post at the end of this session of Congress under a 1994 House rule that limits committee chairmen's terms to six years.
Standing in the wings are three Representatives with the highest seniority among Republican committee members: Jim Leach of Iowa, Henry Hyde of Illinois and Doug Bereuter of Nebraska. Of the three, Bereuter and Hyde appear to stand the best chance of succeeding Gilman, congressional staffers say.
The chances for Leach and Hyde would suffer by a provision in the rule, which bars committee chairmen bumped by the term limits from chairing another committee. Leach is the chairman of the Banking and Financial Services Committee and Hyde heads the Judiciary committee, where he spearheaded the drive to impeach President Clinton.
Bereuter now heads the Asia and the Pacific subcommittee of the International Relations panel. In that position he has been a firm backer of Taiwan's interests, but he is also considered a moderate in China affairs in view of the fact that his district is a major exporter of grain to the mainland.
Bereuter and Hyde have mounted spirited campaigns for the chairmanship post, whose fate will be decided by the GOP House leadership. The leadership is scheduled to interview the candidates in mid-December, and will vote on the chairmanship in the first week of January.
As head of the Asia subcommittee, Bereuter has become one of the House's leading experts on China, Taiwan and the region. His chances for the chairmanship were enhanced last year when the House leadership promised him the committee if he gave up a run for the Senate, which may cost the GOP his firm Republican seat in the House.
This past year, he authored a bill that provided US$75 million for new facilities for the American Institute in Taiwan, America's unofficial embassy in Taipei, in a move he said underscored Washington's long-term commitment to Taiwan.
"Now is the appropriate time to send another message of our unshakeable, long-term commitment to our critically important relations with Taiwan," he said during the committee's vote on the bill. "We are there in Taipei for as long as it takes.
"It is very important that we make it crystal clear to the PRC and the world that we are calmly, but resolutely, standing at the side of Taiwan, providing for the sale of necessary defensive weapons to it to defend itself against any hostile or coercive action to force its re-unification with the PRC through any process that is not a peaceful no-coercive one," he said.
However, he was also the lawmaker who rewrote the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act (TSEA) during the year to eliminate several of the provisions that committed the US to aid Taiwan with arms sales and cooperation, over concerns that the provisions could fly in the face of the Taiwan Relations Act and alienate Beijing.
The original bill, as drafted by Jesse Helms, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, would authorize the president to provide a Theater Missile Defense system to Taiwan and sell to the island a number of major weapons systems, including AEGIS destroyers, advanced air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMs), diesel submarines, airborne warning and control systems (AWACs) and anti-submarine systems. It would also envision close cooperation between the American and Taiwan militaries, including secure direct communications links.
In the face of strong opposition by the Clinton administration and many Senators, the bill never made it out of Helms' committee. When the bill was introduced in the House by the powerful Republican whip, Tom DeLay of Texas, Bereuter had it rewritten to tone it down.
In contrast to Bereuter, Hyde has paid little attention to Taiwan and China in recent years, having been consumed by his job as head of the Judiciary Committee.
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
ALEX AZAR: The first visit by a head of the Department of Health and Human Services would strictly observe the CECC’s special regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar is to lead a delegation to Taiwan — the highest-level visit by a US Cabinet official since the two sides cut formal relations in 1979. The plan was announced yesterday morning by the US Department of Health and Human Services and confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Beijing has expressed its concerns to Washington, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin (汪文斌) said later yesterday. Taiwan and the US only issued statements saying that the visit would happen “in the coming days.” MOFA said that due to security concerns, it would
‘CROSS-STRAIT CONSIDERATIONS’: Groups said that the Ministry of Education’s policies excluded Chinese and students should not be blocked over political issues The Taiwan International Student Movement yesterday said it would protest today outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei against a policy that excludes some Chinese students from returning to Taiwan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 17, the ministry has allowed foreign students from 19 “low risk” and “medium-low risk” countries and regions to enter Taiwan. On July 22, it announced that it was relaxing restrictions to include students from all countries and regions who are graduating this semester and on Wednesday it further expanded entry to students enrolled in degree programs. A letter sent by the ministry on Wednesday to universities did
The military last week sent “no small number” of Marine Corps officers to the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Island, 東沙群島) following reports of a Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) drill targeting the islands scheduled for this month. In an interview with Hong Kong’s Bauhinia Magazine published on Saturday last week, PLA National Defense University professor Li Daguang (李大光) confirmed that the Chinese army was planning to stage a simulated invasion of the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea this month. The islands comprise three atolls, with Pratas Island, at 1.74km2, being the largest. They lie southwest of Taiwan proper in the South