TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The U.S. Congress moved a step forward on promoting visits between the U.S. and Taiwanese officials at higher levels. On Wednesday, February 7, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations advanced the Taiwan Travel Act, after the House passed the bill on January 10.
The act will allow officials at all levels of the U.S. government to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taiwanese counterparts, permit high-level Taiwanese officials to enter the United States and to meet with U.S. officials and encourage the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, and any other instrumentality established by Taiwan, to conduct business in the United States.
Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the committee, reportedly said before voting that Taiwan is a friend and partner of the United States, who provides assistance to the U.S. in many ways. Sen. Bob Menendez said that the stability in the Taiwan Strait is a core national security interest for the U.S. and that the two share the same values of democracy and human rights, according to a UDN report.
If the bill passed by the Senate becomes law, it would mark a milestone in U.S.-Taiwan relations since 1979, when visits of high-level officials between the two sides switched to an unofficial basis. In 1979, Washington shifted diplomatic recognition from the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan today, to China, and ever since the U.S. has maintained unofficial diplomatic ties with Taiwan and a self-imposed restriction on high-level visits with Taiwan.
A major pro-independence Taiwan lobbying group FAPA said in a statement Wednesday that "the passage of the act continues the momentum of the signing into law of the National Defense Authorization Act on December 12 which, among other issues, lists the Taiwan Relations Act and the 'Six Assurances' as continuing US legal commitments.”
FAPA President Peter Chen concluded that "the U.S. and Taiwan are allies that share common values and the removal of these self-imposed restrictions will promote greater cooperation between the two nations and enhance mutual economic, political, and security interest.”
In response to the progress of the Act, the Chinese publication Global Times published an article mid-January to express its alarm at the potential passage of the Taiwan Travel Act, with a threatening passage stating that China "will surely act to make sure Taiwan and the US pay the price for their "high-level exchanges."