Thu, Sep 23, 2004 - Page 3 News List

US election will not affect Taiwan much: observers

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

The outcome of the upcoming US presidential election will not bring any significant shift to its Taiwan policy, election observers said yesterday.

"The framework of the US' Taiwan policy will not change. Policies such as the `one-China' principle, peaceful resolution, respect for public opinion and the nation's refusal to act as mediator -- these will not change," said executive director of the Institute for National Policy Research, Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政), yesterday during a forum held by the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) Department of Chinese Affairs. "But different administrations will interpret the framework differently," Lo added.

Election observers here were quick to point out that US-Taiwan ties were little more than a side note during the US presidential campaign.

Chiu Kun-shuan (邱坤玄), a professor at National Chengchi University's Graduate Institute of East Asian Studies, pointed out that terrorism was the most significant factor in the presidential election this year, citing studies indicating that constituents were more concerned about terrorism and the war in Iraq than about economic policy.

However, Chiu warned that it was important to note the US' stance on terrorism could have an impact on Taiwan.

"Given election concerns [regarding terrorism], China's bargaining power [with the US] increases. If China were to cooperate with the US, perhaps China would curtail arms sales to the Middle East," Chiu said.

Chiu said, however, that it was hard to say how the US situation in Iraq would impact Taiwan -- if at all.

"Under the circumstances, a Kerry administration would close in on Taiwan's international space, but at the same time, the possibility that it would betray Taiwan suddenly is just as doubtful as the Bush administration turning its back on Taiwan in a second term," Chiu told the Taipei Times.

He also said that the Republican Party's fondness for Taiwan also increased the possibility of conflict between the US and China on the issue, a situation that could force the US to sacrifice its support for Taiwan.

"If Taiwan provokes conflict between the US and China, it could jeopardize Taiwan's good relationship with the US," Chiu said.

Lin Wen-cheng (林文程), vice president of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, interpreted the relative insignificance of the country's Taiwan policy in the election to be indicative of a consensus between the two political parties on the issue.

Despite a consensus yesterday that US vows to protect Taiwan would remain unchanged, analysts pointed to possible changes in policy interpretation.

"[President George W.] Bush took an ambiguous line in his Taiwan policy, leaving the definition of independence and unification -- as well as whether the US would come to Taiwan's aid in the event of cross-strait conflict -- strategically ambiguous. However, would a Kerry administration make efforts to clarify these terms?" Lo said.

"No US president has shown as much support for Taiwan since Reagan as has the current Bush administration. But we still have to be on the lookout for possible changes in the relationship between China and the US and the impact these changes could have on Taiwan," Chiu said.

"No matter who wins, Taiwan will have to work hard to keep communication lines with the US open. Without this dialogue, we have no chance," Lin said.

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