Fri, Nov 05, 2004 - Page 3 News List

US expected to rethink its Taiwan role

SECOND TERM New officials are likely to seek to put their own stamp on US-Taiwan relations and cross-strait issues and perhaps may seek a more active policy role

By Charles Snyder  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

The second Bush administration will not make any major changes in its policy toward Taiwan, but is expected to undertake a reevaluation of its policy to see where changes may be possible, academics and specialists in Washington feel.

Such a re-evaluation will not be a repeat of the formal policy review the Clinton administration made in 1994, the observers said. But they say that with other issues that have been of overriding concern in the past such as Iraq and Afghanistan expected to diminish over time, the administration will have more time to focus on issues such as the long-range future of Taiwan and US-Taiwan relations.

One of the first things the new administration might do is to intensify its efforts to get Beijing and Taipei to re-engage in dialogue to advance cross-strait relations, the specialists say. But they express doubts over how far Washington can go in inserting itself into cross-strait talks, if at all.

One thing that observers seems to agree on is that there will be key personnel changes in a second Bush administration that will allow new officials to put their own stamp on US policy toward Taiwan, resulting in shifts in emphasis and interpretations.

"I think there is evidence that the Bush administration is considering what role it might play, and how it might play a role differently in the second administration," Bonnie Glaser, a scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told a post-election seminar organized by the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) on Wednesday.

"I think it is clear that they are going to think very seriously whether they have to play a more active, involved role than they have in the past," she said.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice asked Chinese leaders when she was in Beijing this summer about what role Washington could play in fostering resumed cross-strait dialogue, Glaser said.

"It is my understanding that a similar question has been posed to the leaders in Taiwan. So people are thinking about the question and are collecting answers," Glaser said.

"The question is, what set of policies does the United States need to pursue in order to insure the maximum possibly stability in cross-strait relations now and in the future," she said.

An expected shift in key Taiwan-related official personnel in a second Bush term is also expected to shift US policy, observers say.

Mark Pratt, a retired State Department official who saw service in Taipei and Beijing noted that Secretary of State Colin Powell, his deputy Richard Armitage, and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia James Kelly might all leave soon, putting a new cast of characters in charge of relations with Taiwan and China.

Taiwan's top representative to the US, David Lee Ta-wei (李大維), also feels that changes in personnel could signal policy differences.

"You have to realize that with different persons running the policy and executing the policy, you may see some different interpretation because of the different personalities," Lee said.

John Tkacik of the Heritage Foundation indicated that the next administration's Taiwan policy would be part of a more comprehensive change in US Asia policy.

"The second Bush administration will reexamine its position in the Western Pacific in a way that it was unable to do int the first administration," he told the seminar.

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