• Directory of Taiwan

Taiwan Relations Act needs reaffirmation


April 10 will mark the 30th anniversary of the passage of the "Taiwan Relations Act" by the United States Congress in the wake of the breaking of relations between the U.S. and Taiwan's Republic of China government in January 1979.
During the last three decades, the TRA has provided the institutional cornerstone for unofficial relations between the U.S. and Taiwan and has offered the strongest guarantees by Washington to safeguard Taiwan's democracy, human rights and economy and to provide Taipei with the self-defense capability to resist any use of force or coercion that could jeopardize Taiwan.
Along with three communiques with the People's Republic of China and the principle of "peaceful resolution," the TRA has also constituted the foundation of Washington's so-called "one China policy" in handling cross-strait relations.
However, the PRC's Chinese Communist Party regime has long seen the TRA as an explicit interference in its "domestic affairs" based on its "one China principle" that claims Taiwan is part of the PRC and has repeatedly pushed Washington to sign a "fourth communique" to override the TRA.
As the PRC's military capabilities have sharply strengthened during the past decade with double-digit annual increases in its "defense" budget, the growing imbalance of forces across the Taiwan Strait now poses a test to the viability of the TRA as well as a clear and present danger to cross-strait stability.
Moreover, the pace of the PRC's expansion of military clout has not slackened after the restoration of power by the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) under President Ma Ying-jeou and its major concessions to Beijing.
Indeed, the latest annual report by the Pentagon report on the People's Liberation Army military power warned that the PRC's continued military buildup may aim to frighten the new KMT government into making even more concessions.
Indeed, despite Beijing's profession of a desire for "peaceful unification," the report warned that the PLA's deployment of short range ballistic missiles, enhanced amphibious warfare capabilities and modern, advanced long-range anti-air systems across the strait from Taiwan underscores that Beijing remains unwilling to renounce the use of force."
The Pentagon report was a wake-up call to both the U.S. and Taiwan governments.
Since taking office in January, new U.S. President Barack Obama has rarely mentioned cross-strait relations, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton merely reaffirmed Washington's "our one China policy" to her PRC counterparts in a February visit to Beijing.
Since Obama is slated to meet PRC State Chairman and CCP General Secretary Hu Jintao in early April at the "Group of 20" summit in London, it would be very timely for Obama to openly reaffirm TRA to manifest Washington's resolve to maintain stable U.S.-Taiwan relations.
Last week, 30 U.S. Senators of both parties signed a joint letter urging Obama to officially mark the TRA's 30th anniversary and thereby express Washington's continued support for freedom, security and prosperity for the people of Taiwan.
Such a reaffirmation of the TRA should also be buttressed by firmer action to implement its spirit and letter.
The Pentagon report was also a timely reminder to the Ma government to reconsider its current policy of "leaning to one side" toward Beijing, which has featured substantial economic and political concessions by Taipei to Beijing but scant benefits to Taiwan economically or diplomatically.
For example, Beijing has neither reduced its military threats against Taiwan nor agreed to give Taiwan a green light to participate as an observer in the upcoming World Health Assembly in Geneva in May on a dignified and equal basis.
Instead, the CCP regime has taken full advantage of the Ma administration's anxiety for a quick rapprochement by alluring the KMT government into its political snare of the "one China" framework, as reflected by the public statements by both Hu and PRC Premier Wen Jiabao that a proposed cross-strait comprehensive economic cooperation agreement would be a step toward ultimate unification.
Moreover, Beijing has used its global media clout to persuade the world community that the dialogue between the KMT and the CCP are being conducted under the framework of "one China," which almost all of international society perceives as being the PRC despite the futile hawking by Ma and his KMT of the useless fiction that "one China" means the "Republic of China."
Indeed, the KMT government faces pressure on two fronts.
Without domestic multipartisan support, Ma will be unable to fulfill his dream of cross-strait normalization and any failure of the KMT government to secure sufficient security guarantees from the U.S. will likewise undermine its bargaining power in the face of the PRC's expansion of military, economic and diplomatic clout.
Diplomatic lobbying by the KMT administration would be more convincing if Ma would invite opposition voices in Taiwan to join in a bipartisan campaign for public congressional and presidential endorsement of the TRA and its affirmation of the importance of Taiwan's democracy and human rights and security instead of only trying to secure endorsements for his "normalization" policy.