Two members of the US Congress have urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to stop in Taiwan for talks with President Chen Shui-bian (
Representatives Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican, and Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican -- two of Taiwan's staunchest supporters in Congress -- sent Rice a letter on Monday, just before she was to embark on a five-day trip to Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing and Moscow to discuss the UN resolution calling for sanctions against Pyongyang.
"We hope you will stop in Taipei this week to talk with President Chen about enhanced US-Taiwan cooperation on cargo inspections and enforcement of sanctions," the letter said.
It also asked Rice to "consider a role for Taiwan in the ongoing six-party negotiations, as the outcome of those negotiations is just as critical to Taiwan as it is for the other six nations who are currently participating."
The UN resolution, passed by the Security Council unanimously over the weekend, calls on nations to act to prevent North Korea from importing and exporting weapons and critical technologies to other countries, efforts that could involve interdiction and inspection of North Korean vessels and other shipments.
Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday expressed support for the resolution, pledging to cooperate with the resolution and take measures on embargo and export controls on North Korea.
The Tancredo-Rohrabacher letter recalls that the State Department formed a high-level task force with Taiwan's National Security Council some time ago.
That task force "worked to improve Taiwanese export control and enforcement systems and engaged in a variety of joint law enforcement activities focused on North Korea."
In August of 2003, for instance, Taiwanese customs officials boarded a North Korea-bound ship in Kaohsiung harbor at the request of US intelligence authorities looking for illegal chemicals that could be used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
The US asked Taiwanese authorities to confiscate the ship, but the ship's North Korean captain, news reports said, refused to cooperate.
Eventually, the ship unloaded the cargo, 158 barrels of phosphorous pentasulfide, and the goods were confiscated.
Since Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test last week, news reports have detailed the US effort to control nuclear and missile traffic to North Korea involving at least 13 nations.
The 2003 seizure of the North Korean cargo predated US Customs' official announcement in July last year that Kaohsiung had become the 38th port to join the Container Security Initiative. Teams of Taiwanese and US customs officials now work together screening cargo in Kaohsiung and Keelung.
More recently, Taiwan seized some 20 shipping containers of counterfeit cigarette wrappers destined for North Korea, the congressional letter noted.
In addition to those actions, Taiwan has long been involved in the fight against illegal drugs coming from North Korea. More than a decade ago, North Korea began expanding its production of methamphetamine, which has emerged as a popular illicit drug throughout Asia.
According to US State Department narcotics officials, Taiwan has, over the years, seized several shipments of meth and heroin, which were transferred to drug traffickers' ships on the high seas from North Korean Vessels. The department has heaped praise on Taiwan for its efforts in thwarting the North Korean-based international drug trade.