The US House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday unanimously approved a resolution applauding Taiwan's democracy and upcoming presidential election, after the committee's new chairman, Howard Berman of California, made it clear that in doing so, the committee is staying out of the debate over the planned referendum on UN entry.
The resolution, which expresses the "sense of Congress," now goes to the full House for its consideration. If the history of such House resolutions concerning Taiwan is a guide, the measure should be approved easily, possibly by unanimous consent.
The resolution as passed by the panel, however, was an amended version of an earlier measure that stripped the bill of a provision saying "Taiwan's young democracy faces constant military threat and intimidation from neighboring China."
The chairman of the committee's Asia and the Pacific subcommittee, Eni Faleomavega of American Samoa, objected to that provision and convinced the committee to accept the pared-down language.
The original resolution was jointly sponsored by Tom Lantos, the late Democratic chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, who died earlier this month, and Republican member, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.
Faleomavega told the Taipei Times he objected to the China threat provision because it could hurt US-China ties and send a signal that the US supports President Chen Shui-bian's (
"I know the continuous problems that we have had in terms of what the administration in Taiwan has attempted to do to declare independence, sovereignty, separate and apart from their association with the People's Republic of China [PRC], and I maintain that our current policy, the one China policy, should still be in place whatever the political relationship that Taiwan and China want to work out," he said.
Faleomavega said the provision on the Chinese threat would have suggested that the US "supports whole-heartedly what President Chen has been doing, which I think is not proper and inappropriate."
Committee members who have been major supporters of Taiwan disagreed.
"Unfortunately," Steve Chabot, a co-chairman of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus, told Taiwan reporters, "compromises are reached around this place that I would not necessarily agree to, and I don't agree to that. It clearly is the case that Taiwan is being intimidated and is under pressure by the PRC."
"But there are two [US political] parties, and they consult with the Senate and the [Bush] administration, and oftentimes there are compromises," he said
On the overall bill, Chabot said it "commends Taiwan for moving ahead in a democratic fashion and having elections, something the people in the PRC don't get to do. This is an example where Taiwan should be looked at as a role model by the PRC as the way to do it."
Tom Tancredo, one of Taiwan's biggest supporters in Congress, was philosophical.
"Not recognizing reality is something we do around here periodically, but it is never the best policy," he told the Taipei Times.
Before the committee voted, Berman said that the resolution related only to the upcoming Taiwan presidential election.
"It should not be construed as taking a position on the referendum regarding Taiwan's membership in the United Nations, which the government of Taiwan plans to hold in conjunction with the election," he said.
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