Thu, Nov 06, 2014 - Page 3 News List

More pro-Taiwan pressure expected from Capitol Hill

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Major Republican victories in the US midterm congressional elections on Tuesday have increased support for Taiwan on Capitol Hill.

New Republican senators are expected to be more sympathetic to the nation than their Democratic counterparts.

And as Republicans take over Senate committee chairmanships in the new Congress next year, they will have much greater control over the legislative process.

There will be more pressure than ever on US President Barack Obama to take a harder line on China, and provide a warmer reception to Taiwan’s pleas for modern fighter planes and technical help for an indigenous submarine program.

With both houses of Congress in Republican hands, it is likely that new legislation will be introduced and passed next year calling for increased arms sales to Taipei.

While it was too early to gather in-depth reaction from members of the Taiwan caucus, a senior Republican staffer on the House of Representatives side predicted the Obama administration would also be pushed to offer more support for Taiwan’s entry into the nascent Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Gaining membership is a prime target for Taipei.

However, there is unlikely to be any immediate change in emphasis as the current Congress now enters its final session.

Obama has called a bipartisan meeting of congressional leaders for tomorrow at the White House to discuss cooperation before he leaves this weekend for Beijing and meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).

Sources say Obama will offer to work with the new Republican leadership and try to break the political deadlock that has gripped Washington for much of his term.

Obama’s trip to Beijing will ensure that China is high on the agenda, but US foreign policy is currently dominated by the Ebola crisis and Islamic State militants.

It remains unclear just how much influence and impact increased Republican pressure will have on the White House.

The Republicans still do not have enough votes in the Senate to overturn a presidential veto.

Any move to improve US ties with Taiwan would be certain to upset Beijing and result in increased strains in the US-China relationship, thus Obama may remain very reluctant to bend to congressional pressure on Taiwan.

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