The US Congress may consider 15 “salient” Taiwan policy issues this year, based on a report released this week by the Congressional Research Service.
The report, The US-Taiwan Relationship: Overview of Policy Issues, outlines issues ranging from arms sales to trade, relations with Beijing to membership in international organizations. The issues are presented in the form of questions that members of Congress are urged to ask themselves.
Written by Asian security affairs specialist Shirley Kan and Asian trade and finance specialist Wayne Morrison, the 30-page report could set the Taiwan agenda for the upcoming Congressional session.
In an overview of US policy interests and issues, Kan and Morrison say that Taiwan has been of “significant” security, economic and political interest to the US.
They say that the US has a “critical concern” with the “ties or tensions” across the Taiwan Strait and that the situation has an impact on international security and cooperation between Beijing and Washington.
“For decades, Taipei has harbored fears about whether Beijing’s cooperation with Washington has occurred at the expense of Taiwan’s interests,” the report says.
The first question members of Congress are asked is how effectively the administration of US President Barack Obama is encouraging Taiwan to support US interests in peace and prosperity, including in US alliances and the cross-strait relationship.
“Is the administration effectively influencing Taiwan to play a helpful, stabilizing role in maritime territorial disputes in East Asia?” it asks.
Congress is asked to think how it could better “engage” Taiwan and the US should resume visits by Cabinet-level officials to Taiwan.
“Should the US sell more weapons and which ones, as requested by Taiwan for its self-defense?” the report asks.
And should the US “encourage” Taiwan to strengthen its self-defense, including by increasing the defense budget? it continues.
Kan and Morrison also ask if the US should sign an extradition treaty with Taiwan and favor membership or observer status for Taiwan in international organizations.
Among the other questions Congress is asked to consider:
‧ Should Washington allow more senior officials from Taiwan to visit the US and should there be expanded communication with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九)?
‧ What is Taiwan’s role in the US’ comprehensive strategy for rebalancing priorities toward the Asian-Pacific region and should US military officers be allowed to visit Taiwan?
‧ Should the US reopen Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks with Taiwan, negotiate a free-trade agreement and include Taiwan in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?
The report says that further into Ma’s second term, Beijing could increase pressure for political and military negotiations.
“Beijing’s patience could be tested further by the sustained separate identity in Taiwan,” it says.
“Taiwan’s people retain a strong Taiwan-centric identity after over a century of mostly separation from Mainland China,” the report says.
“Taiwan’s people pragmatically have pursued prosperity, security and their democratic way of life and self-governance,” it says.
“Moderate voters generally have supported economic ties to the PRC [People’s Republic of China] amid political separation,” it concluded.