The chairman of the House International Relations Committ-ee, Henry Hyde, has cautioned that the US must not let closer relations with China following the Sept. 11 attacks hurt its ties with Taiwan, saying that Taiwan is "of immense strategic importance" to the US.
China remains a threat to Tai-wan and a challenge to the US despite the recent warming of relations between Washington and Beijing, Hyde said in an address to an annual dinner of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank that has strongly supported Taiwan's interests.
"The regime in Beijing appears determined to bring about Taiwan's subordination, a determination so strong that, at times, it has even seemed willing to risk an armed confrontation," he said.
"Its strategic planning and war-gaming assume an increasingly prominent place for conflict with the US, especially in the Taiwan Strait.
"For this and other reasons, there are those in the US who regard our ties to Taiwan as a major liability, a relic of the Cold War, which is not only dangerous but is an unnecessary obstacle to better relations between the US and China.
"Not surprisingly, there are some in the US who advocate that the US and China should reach an accommodation over Taiwan. This line of argument has taken many forms over the past three decades, ever since president Nixon traveled to Beijing in 1972, but the recommendation is essentially the same: We should back off from Taiwan in return for improved relations with Beijing."
His comments came a week after newly declassified documents gave graphic details of former national security adviser Henry Kissinger's meetings with Chinese premier Zhou Enlai in 1971 in which Kissinger acceded to Zhou's demands for a US "one China" policy in exchange for eventual normalization of relations.
Those demands included recognition of the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China with Taiwan belonging to China, no "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan" policy, and no US support for a Taiwan independence movement.
Hyde's comments are his first extensive discussion of US-Taiwan relations since his three-day trip to Taiwan last August, in which he met with President Chen Shui-bian (
"Although some have grown used to regarding Taiwan as a liability, this approach obscures Taiwan's true importance," Hyde said.
"For a free and uncoerced Taiwan is of immense strategic importance to the US and to the world as a whole, perhaps an irreplaceable one.
"In fact, a free Taiwan is the key to the possibility of genuinely close relations between the US and China and a guarantee that China's growing impact on the international system will be a positive one. It may even hold the key to China's destiny."
Hyde's cautions on China were a part of a broader message that Washington should remain wary of Beijing's designs despite its more moderate stance recently.
"I believe it would be a profound mistake to cast off the experience of the past or to allow our current amicability to relieve us of the need to consider less sunny possibilities," he said.
Any challenge from Beijing to the US "will center on Taiwan," he added.
Hyde held up Taiwan's democratization over the past several years as a lesson to China and called on the US to provide strong support for freedoms in China using Taiwan as a model.