Following the lead of more than 100 members of the US House of Representatives, a half-dozen senators are to announce the formation of the Senate Taiwan Caucus to promote Taiwan's interest in the upper house of the US Congress.
The senators are expected to announce shortly -- perhaps on Sept. 17 -- the formation of the caucus, according to Taiwan and congressional officials.
While the exact date has not been set, a group of Legislative Yuan members, led by DPP Senior Legislator Trong Chai (
The development will be a major step in the recognition by Congress of the special relationship between the US and Taiwan, and is expected to raise Taiwan's visibility in a legislative body that has been loath to form such caucuses easily, and which has shown itself far less willing than the House to advance legislation favorable to Taiwan.
The bipartisan caucus is being spearheaded by Virginia Republican George Allen, who is a long-standing supporter of Taiwan. He is the senator who wrote the bill approved by Congress and signed by US President George W. Bush in May that supported Taiwan's participation in the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.
"We feel that Taiwan rates as one of a number of important issues, and we feel that for the world's leading democracy, it is important to have a voice for democracies such as Taiwan in the United States Congress, and we can work to continue to build the partnership that we have with Taiwan," said Allen's spokesman, Mike Waldron.
"We will advocate on key issues, such as WHO [World Health Organization] membership, intellectual property rights, and so on," Waldron said.
Taiwan's chief representative in Washington, Chen Chien-jen (程建人), described the formation of the caucus as "very important."
"I think it could be, to a certain extent, like the House Taiwan caucus," Chen said. "Whatever issues relate to Taiwan and the United States, they will be interested in. If they feel that they can help, they will likely get involved.
"I think basically they want to promote better ties between the United States and Taiwan. They consider Taiwan their friend, and they're willing to support Taiwan in various areas -- in security, in political stability, in trade -- you name it," he said.
The caucus will be joined by people like Allen, who is "very friendly to Taiwan, very supportive of the causes Taiwan abides by, and is willing to render additional support to be sure that Taiwan's security, democracy, freedom, and human rights can be preserved and helped," Chen said.
In addition to Allen, other senators who have said they will join the caucus are Illinois Republican Tim Johnson, North Dakota Democrat Bryan Dorgan, Illinois Democrat Richard Durban, and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson.
Chen said that he expected "at least six or seven" senators to join the caucus by the time it is officially formed. In contrast, the House caucus, formed in April last year, has 119 members, more than a quarter of the total membership.
The House's Congressional Taiwan Caucus has been very active over the past year on several key Taiwan issues.
They have been writing letters to Bush administration officials complaining of policies they regarded as hurtful to Taiwan and trying to rouse fellow lawmakers to take stands favorable to Taiwan. They have also increased exchanges between members of Congress and officials and legislators from Taiwan.