Sat, Jul 09, 2016 - Page 3 News List

US Senate reaffirms TRA, ‘six assurances’

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

The US Senate has unanimously passed legislation reaffirming the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and the “six assurances” as the “cornerstone” of US-Taiwan relations.

“It adds tremendous weight and momentum to the six assurances and further solidifies the US commitment to Taiwan,” Washington-based Formosan Association of Public Affairs president Peter Chen (陳正義) said.

A similar resolution passed the US House of Representatives unanimously two months ago.

Insiders said that the moves demonstrate Capitol Hill’s depth of commitment to Taiwan.

Earlier this week, US Department of State East Asian Bureau spokeswoman Grace Choi said the US remained firmly committed to supporting Taiwan’s ability to defend itself and had an enduring interest in the maintenance of peaceful and stable cross-strait ties.

The new legislation and the State Department comments come amid unsettling developments in the South China Sea.

On Tuesday, an international court is to rule on a complaint by the Philippines that, among other things, China has illegally claimed sovereignty over waters within its “nine-dash line” that encircles almost all of the South China Sea.

The tribunal is expected to support the Philippines, but China has already said that it will ignore the verdict.

In anticipation of the verdict, China has launched naval exercises in the South China Sea near the disputed Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島), and US Navy destroyers are sailing close to some of China’s artificial islands in the region.

The US aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan has also moved into the South China Sea along with her escorts.

According to the New York Times, the flurry of activity is a sign of how much is at stake and the outcome could alter the dynamics of the South China Sea conflict, “shifting it from a race to establish physical dominance over the waters to a conspicuous test of Beijing’s respect for international law.”

The US Senate resolution was introduced by US senators Marco Rubio, Robert Menendez, Sherrod Brown, Cory Gardner and James Inhofe.

Rubio met privately with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in Miami last month when she stopped over in Florida on her way to Central America.

The resolution urges US President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry to affirm the “six assurances” “publicly, proactively and consistently” as a cornerstone of US-Taiwan relations.

Announced verbally by then-US president Ronald Reagan in 1982, the “assurances” state that the US will not set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan; would not mediate between Taipei and Beijing; would not pressure Taiwan to negotiate with China; will not change its position on Taiwanese sovereignty; would not revise the TRA; and would not consult with Beijing on arms sales to Taiwan.

FAPA president Peter Chen said this was the first time in history that the “six assurances” had reached the floor of both houses of the US Congress in the form of legislation.

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