The 30-year-old Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) does not accurately reflect present reality, but Washington is unlikely to make any changes to the document given its preoccupation with other issues, such as the economy and the Iraq War, an Asia policy expert said yesterday, urging Taiwanese to stand up and fight for what they want.
Speaking at a forum held by the pro-independence Taiwan National Security Institute, Stephen Yates, the president of DC Asia Advisory and a former advisor on Asian affairs to former US vice president Dick Cheney, said despite the TRA’s incompleteness, the US administration at this time was unlikely to amend it or establish a new law to define US-Taiwan relations.
The US Congress passsed the TRA in 1979 after Washington established diplomatic ties with Beijing. The landmark legislation has served as the backbone of bilateral relations ever since. It is also the only US domestic law that stipulates the US government conduct relations with another nation.
PHOTO: WANG MIN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES
The TRA fit circumstances 30 years ago, but because of the rapid changes in Taiwan, the US and China in recent years, especially the last decade, the document now has “gaps” on the issues such as Taiwan’s participation in international organizations and human rights, Yates said.
In the TRA, the US’ policy toward Taiwan’s membership in international organizations is stated in the negative, he said.
“At the time, Taiwan was a member of several international organizations and so it was important to say we opposed Taiwan being excluded or expelled. But now, the issue is not whether Taiwan is to be expelled, but whether it can come back in,” Yates said.
If the context now was similar to what it was 30 years ago, “I am confident the US Congress would have stated that the US supports Taiwan’s membership in international organizations,” he said.
He also said the TRA stipulated very little about US policy on Taiwan’s human rights, “but it might be useful post-democratization to address some of these issues.”
At the time of the TRA’s composition, no one foresaw the current rapprochement between Taiwan and China and, therefore, the legislation did not state what the US would deem as acceptable if any agreements were to be signed by Taipei and Beijing, he said.
Yates, a longtime supporter of Taiwan, also panned Washington for refusing to acknowledge the reality that Taiwan was a democratic country by ignoring the fact that conflict in the Taiwan Strait was not merely limited to Beijing and Taiwan, but a grave concern to the whole region.
One of three major tenets of the TRA is the US commitment to avert possible Chinese aggression against Taiwan. But instead of taking active measures on the rapid modernization of the People’s Liberation Army in recent years, many people in Washington are telling Taipei “to stay quiet” and not to stir up possible conflict.
Calling attention to the growing cross-strait imbalance that has given China the upper hand, Yates encouraged Taiwanese to use their power to force the government to behave in line with the majority of public opinion.
Taiwan, he said, must reach an internal consensus on what it wants before any country, including the US, can help, he said.
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