Overview of U.S. Policy toward Taiwan

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[The following are excerpts of the testimony at a hearing on Taiwan, House International Relations Committee, Washington, D.C., April 21, 2004.]

I welcome the opportunity to provide an overview of U.S. policy toward Taiwan, as well as the Administration's assessment of relations across the Taiwan Strait, the current situation in Taiwan, and the challenges that lie ahead.

This month we mark the 25th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). The TRA, along with the three U.S. and China Joint Communiques and our one China policy, form the foundation for the complex political and security interplay among China, Taiwan, and the United States.

Looking back over the past three decades, I think we can congratulate ourselves on crafting a policy that has been the key to maintaining peace and stability in the western Pacific while helping to ensure Taiwan's prosperity and security. Without denying the challenges and difficulties that remain, I can confidently report that because of the leadership of seven U.S. Presidents and active participation of the Congress, our relations with both China and Taiwan economic, political, cultural, and social are far closer and deeper than most would have ever predicted.

Equally important, our policy and the TRA have made vital contributions to easing tensions between Taiwan and the Peoples Republic of China (P.R.C.) and creating the environment in which cross-Strait people-to-people exchanges and cross-Strait trade are flourishing and creating, we hope, the necessary conditions for peaceful resolution of cross-Strait differences.

Core Principles

It is useful to reiterate the core principles of our policy:

* The United States remains committed to a our China policy based on the three Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act;

* The U.S. does not support independence for Taiwan or unilateral moves that would change the status quo as we define it;

* For Beijing, this means no use of force or threat to use force against Taiwan. For Taipei, it means exercising prudence in managing all aspects of cross-Strait relations. For both sides, it means no statements or actions that would unilaterally alter Taiwan's status;

* The U.S. will continue the sale of appropriate defensive military equipment to Taiwan in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, and;

* Viewing any use of force against Taiwan with grave concern, we will maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion against Taiwan.

Our foremost concern is maintaining peace and stability in order to advance U.S. interests, spare the region the dangers of war, safeguard Taiwan's democracy, and promote China's constructive integration into the global community as well as the spread of personal freedom in China. Because the possibility for the United States to become involved in a cross-Strait conflict is very real, the President knows that American lives are potentially at risk. Our one-China policy reflects our abiding commitment to preserve peace in the Taiwan Strait so long as there are irreconcilable differences.

Status Quo Message Aimed at Both Sides

The President's message on December 9, 2003 during P.R.C. Premier Wen Jiabao's visit reiterated the U.S. government's opposition to any unilateral moves by either China or Taiwan to change the status quo. This message was directed to both sides.

The President and the senior leadership of this administration consistently make clear to Chinese leaders that the United States will fulfill its obligations to help Taiwan defend itself, as mandated in the Taiwan Relations Act. At the same time we have very real concerns that our efforts at deterring Chinese coercion might fail if Beijing ever becomes convinced Taiwan is embarked on a course toward independence and permanent separation from China, and concludes that Taiwan must be stopped in these efforts. …