Beijing set to ramp up the pressure on Ma, US congressional report says

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Sat, Dec 13, 2014 - Page 3

Beijing might increase pressure for political and military negotiations with Taiwan, a report by the US Congressional Research Service said.

The report — an overview of US-Taiwan policy issues — is to be used as a guide for both houses of the US Congress when it comes into power next month.

According to the report, pressure from Beijing can be expected “further into” President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) second and final term.

While the report was actually written by Asian security affairs expert Shirley Kan and Asian trade and finance expert Wayne Morrison before the last months nine-in-one elections, it reflects perceived political changes in Taiwan.

“Beijing’s patience could be tested further by the sustained separate identity in Taiwan,” the report said.

“Despite the pronouncements of a ‘one China’ by leaders in Taipei and Beijing, and closer cross-strait ties, Taiwan’s people retain a strong Taiwan-centric identity over a century of mostly separation from mainland China,” the report said.

Still, it points out that Taiwan has “pragmatically pursued” prosperity, security, a democratic way of life and self-governance.

“Moderate voters generally have supported economic ties to the PRC amid political separation,” the report said.

It says the US could work with Taiwan to increase cooperation on international security.

“Taiwan could boost its defense and foreign aid spending, counter cyberthreats, and improve counter-espionage amid cases in Taiwan of alleged spying for Beijing,” the report said.

It added: “Taiwan has the option to increase military or civilian missions in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”

While Taiwan has been of significant security, economic and political interest to the US, it has “posed challenges” to US engagement with China.

“For decades, Taipei has harbored fears about whether Beijing’s cooperation with Washington has occurred at the expense of Taiwan’s interests,” the report said.

It highlights 15 separate points of policy that the new Congress should consider.

The report asks: “How might Congress exercise its roles in US policy on Taiwan? How might Congress ensure momentum in strengthening US-Taiwan cooperation or ties?”

Members of Congress are asked to consider if the administration of US President Barack Obama is sticking to the Taiwan Relations Act in selling weapons to enable Taiwan to maintain sufficient self-defense capability.

“How effectively is the administration encouraging Taiwan to strengthen its self-defense, including by increasing the defense budget?” the report asked.

Congress is also asked to consider if US policy should allow or encourage more senior Taiwanese officials to visit the US, and encourage expanded communication with Taiwan’s president.

Significantly, the report asks Congress if the US should negotiate a free-trade agreement or bilateral investment agreement and support Taiwan’s efforts to join regional trade blocs such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.