A new congressional analysis of the US-Taiwan relationship concludes that for decades Taiwan has been of “significant security, economic and political interest to the United States.”
Written for the Congressional Research Service (CRS) by Shirley Kan, a specialist on Asian security, and Wayne Morrison, a specialist in Asian trade and finance, the document — also billed as an “overview of policy issues” — clarifies some US positions that had become murky or even confused.
“Overall, US policy seeks to support security, political and economic interests in peace and stability as well as the status quo in the Taiwan Strait,” it says.
The analysis adds that US policy also supports Taiwan’s efforts to maintain international space, democracy and human rights in Taiwan and US businesses in Taiwan.
As a “critical concern” the study says that the US has interests in the “ties or tension” across the Taiwan Strait, which affect global peace and stability.
US policy also seeks a cooperative relationship with China, which opposes US arms sales and other official dealings with Taiwan as interference in its internal affairs.
However, in the era of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “cross-strait engagement” the analysis says that both Washington and Taipei have “put more efforts into their respective relations with Beijing” than they have put into relations with each other.
“Taiwan and some members of Congress have been concerned about suspected delays in consideration of Taiwan’s defense needs by [US] President Barack Obama, particularly out of concern about the military and overall relationship with the PRC [People’s Republic of China],” it says.
“Taiwan has asked for continued US security assistance. However, Taiwan under President Ma has cut its defense budget and has failed to reach the promised defense spending at three percent of GDP,” the analysis says.
It says that while Ma contends that he values democracy, freedoms and human rights, critics claim that Taiwan under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has not done enough to promote those values in China or to promote judicial reforms at home.
“Some have questioned whether the KMT administration has downplayed democracy promotion by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy and has been less welcoming to the exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama and exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer,” it says.
“A number of US and foreign former officials and activists have written an open letter to President Ma to express concerns,” it says.
The analysis cites a letter of April 11 in the Taipei Times asking whether legal charges brought against 17 former Democratic Progressive Party officials under former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) administration for allegedly failing to return about 36,000 documents were politically motivated.
Taiwan’s upcoming presidential elections have implications for US interests in democracy and stability, the analysis says.
“There is concern in Washington about Beijing’s actions before and after the elections with Beijing favoring the incumbent President Ma,” it says.
“If the opposition DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) wins in January 2012 … Beijing could pressure the outgoing KMT president for concessions and take a strident stance toward the DPP. Though uncertainty is rising, many analysts expect more continuity than change in any outcome of the election,” it says.
“Compared to the KMT, the DPP tends to be more Taiwan-centric and more wary of ties with the PRC. The DPP tends to stress relations with the US and other democracies (like Japan) over ties with mainland China,” it says.