Taiwan is not treated well by the international community, a visiting US congressman said yesterday.
Speaking at a roundtable meeting held at the American Institute in Taiwan's Taipei Office, Tom Lantos said that the so-called civilized world continues to treat Taiwan's leaders as second-class citizens, authorizing them only transit stops in their countries.
They should receive proper visas and should be allowed to enter the US whenever and wherever they choose, he said.
With regard to Taiwan's bids to join international organizations, the US lawmaker said that he and others who are friends of Taiwan will continue to do their best to see that Taiwan is represented in these groups.
"My first priority is of course the World Health Organization, where Taiwan can make an enormous contribution," he added.
Lantos also expressed concern yesterday about Taiwan's declining defense expenditures, saying that it is contrary to the country's national interest.
Lantos also cited the current issue of the London-based Economist magazine, which reports that China has continued to increase the percentage of GDP it devotes to defense, while Taiwan is decreasing the percentage it spends.
"I think this is inexcusable, " he said.
Taiwan is a wealthy society and has US$250 billion in foreign exchange reserves, Lantos said, adding that despite this, it is apparently incapable of deciding whether to spend US$18 billion on its own defense.
To have the country spend a diminishing proportion of its GDP on defense is a counter-productive policy, he said.