Sat, Aug 09, 2008 - Page 3 News List

CRS report says US could use clout to help Taiwan

FOREIGN POLICY A report filed by the Congressional Research Service probed what steps the US could take to prevent Taiwan losing its remaining diplomatic allies


A US congressional report has expressed concern over China’s expanding efforts to isolate Taiwan internationally and suggested that Washington could, if needed, employ the US’ economic clout to bolster Taiwan’s efforts to retain or gain recognition.

In effect, the report appears to say that the US could withhold foreign aid and exact an economic price in dealing with other countries, if it wanted, to counter China’s drive to sever Taiwan’s ties with those countries.

Suggesting that the US “could do a more competitive job” in pursuing its own foreign interests against China’s rise, the report says this might include “seeking to counter PRC [People’s Republic of China] efforts to isolate Taiwan by conditioning US assistance and economic interaction with other countries on Taiwan’s greater international participation.”

In suggesting this option, the report says that several Chinese foreign policy activities “pose demanding challenges and questions for US policymakers.”

Among them are: “What will it mean for the United States should Taiwan lose its remaining diplomatic relationships around the world? Should the United States seek to play a more active role in seeking to improve Taiwan’s international position — perhaps by reassessing current US policy toward Taiwan in light of China’s rise?”

Entitled “China’s Foreign Policy: What Does it Mean for US Global Interests?” the report was prepared last month for members of Congress by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the lawmakers’ policy advisory arm. It was released in Washington on Thursday by Secrecy News, an Internet organization that fights government secrecy, on the eve of the Beijing Olympic Games. Under CRS rules, its reports are not supposed to be circulated publicly.

The US State Department’s Washington Foreign Press Center on Thursday also notified reporters of the existence of the report.

The report said that China’s breakneck economic growth in the past few decades had enabled it to “outbid” Taiwan in courting a number of governments with which Taiwan maintains diplomatic relations, resulting in Taiwan’s loss of four allies in the past three years.

It says that China is waging its most intense attack on Taiwan among its allies in Latin America. Twelve of the 23 countries that still recognize Taiwan’s independence are in Latin America.

The region’s proximity to the US, the report said, “allows Taiwan’s president and senior leaders to ask for controversial but symbolically meaningful transit stops in the United States when making official visits to these Western Hemisphere countries.”

“A significant reduction, or even the disappearance, of Taiwan’s Latin America and Caribbean relationships could impair this convenient Taiwan-US connection,” said the report’s author, Asia specialist Kerry Dumbaugh.

In this and other regions, an important aim of China in its outreach “incorporates the political dynamic of trying to separate Taiwan from its remaining diplomatic relationships. China claims that Taiwan is part of its sovereign territory and for decades has tried to make acknowledgment of this ‘one China’ policy a condition for receiving Chinese investment and assistance,” the report says.

In addition to China’s bid to strip Taiwan of diplomatic recognition, strategic considerations makes Taiwan an important factor in China’s actions with US allies in Asia, such as Japan, Australia, South Korea and the Philippines, the report said.

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