The US House of Representatives on Monday passed a resolution aimed at boosting relations with Taiwan as members reassured Taipei of Washington’s support.
Close observers on Capitol Hill said that the resolution — which triggers no specific action — was in part designed as a goodwill gift to president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).
“It is the sense of [US] Congress that the Taiwan Relations Act and the six assurances together form the cornerstone of US relations with Taiwan,” the resolution read.
“Since the six assurances were a verbal pledge, this is the first time in history that they have reached the floor of Congress in the form of legislation,” Formosan Association of Public Affairs president Peter Chen (陳正義) said.
“It adds tremendous weight and momentum to the six assurances and further solidifies the US commitment to Taiwan,” Chen said. “With the May 20 inauguration in Taiwan, passage of the resolution is a welcome gift to the people of Taiwan and a celebration of their continued commitment to freedom, human rights and democracy.”
The resolution was first introduced by Representative Steve Chabot, former chairman of the Asian Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Speaking from the floor of the House, Chabot said the US-Taiwan relationship is vital to the security of the whole region.
“China has been bullying Taiwan for many years now. It is unfortunate that China doesn’t follow Taiwan as an example. Taiwan faces an unrelenting threat from China, which has nearly 1,600 ballistic missiles aimed at this small island,” Chabot said.
“Although Taiwan enjoys de facto independence, China’s ultimate goal is to take over Taiwan, to annex Taiwan. We absolutely cannot let that happen,” he said. “The Taiwan Strait continues to be one of the most dangerous flash points on the globe. [Former US] president Ronald Reagan realized that Taiwan needed to be reassured that it would not be abandoned and it will not be abandoned by the US.”
Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce told the House of Representatives: “Taiwan has always been a strong friend and critical ally to the United States.”
It is the US’ interest to have a prosperous and a stable Taiwan, he said.
Royce praised the democracy and fairness behind Tsai’s election and said the new legislation was especially important because Congress was going on record for the first time to say that the six assurances are part of the cornerstone of US-Taiwan relations.
Royce said the legislation urges US President Barack Obama and all administrations that follow to publicly, proactively and consistently take the six assurances into account.
The legislation strengthens the US-Taiwan partnership, he said.
Representative Eliot Engle, a ranking member of the committee, said that the new legislation sends a “clear signal” of US support as Tsai’s inauguration nears.
“Even as we deal with China, we must stand with our friends in Taiwan,” Engle said.
Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a former chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the new legislation leaves no doubt about US commitment to Taiwan.
“It is one of the world’s strongest and most vibrant democracies,” she said, congratulating Tsai on her “tremendous” election victory.
She said that China continued raising tensions in the region and that it was “crucial” that the US provide Taiwan with the capability to defend itself against Chinese oppression.
“Both China and Taiwan must know that our commitment to Taiwan has not wavered one bit. Taiwan is an essential US ally. It is our friend. It is our partner. The US will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Taiwan,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
The TRA came into force in 1979 during the administration of former US president Jimmy Carter, but three years later, Reagan said that Taiwan needed reassurance that it would not be abandoned, and gave it what became known as the “six assurances.”
They promise that a date will not be set for ending arms sales; that China will not be consulted on arms sales; that the US will not play a mediation role between Beijing and Taipei; that the TRA will not be revised; that the US will not alter its position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan; and that the US will not pressure Taiwan to negotiate with China.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Eleanor Wang (王珮玲) yesterday said that the ministry welcomed and appreciated the concrete actions taken by the US House of Representatives to acknowledge the significance of the TRA and the “six assurances” on Taiwan-US ties.
“The US House of Representatives has been a long-term supporter of Taiwan. It is the first time it has passed a resolution to recognize the important roles played by the Taiwan Relations Act and the six assurances on our bilateral ties, urging the US president and the [US] Department of State to openly, actively and consistently reaffirm them as the cornerstone of US-Taiwan relations,” Wang said.
Additional reporting by Stacy Hsu
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