Aban­don­ing Tai­wan: Not such a good idea

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

In these dif­fi­cult days of un­prece­dented chaos in the Mid­dle East and North Africa, plus the hor­rific re­cent events in Ja­pan, so lit­tle at­ten­tion is be­ing paid to the vast re­gions of Asia where count­less mil­lions re­main un­able to en­joy even the ba­sic el­e­ments of hu­man rights.

It is, how­ever, heart­en­ing to see Ja­pan, the Philip­pines, In­done­sia, Thai­land and Tai­wan make progress to­ward es­cap­ing dif­fi­cul­ties that could pro­vide fod­der for those who seek to un­der­mine their democ­ra­cies.

One re­cent com­men­tary in For­eign Af­fairs mag­a­zine on Asia ti­tled “Will China’s Rise Lead to War?” by pro­fes­sor Charles Glaser, how­ever, has sur­faced. It pro­poses a plan that has been re­jected ever since we es­tab­lished diplo­matic re­la­tions with the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China (PRC).

Mr. Glaser clearly and schol­arly out­lined his con­cept that if the United States “kow­tows” to China by with­draw­ing our se­cu­rity blan­ket from Tai­wan as a peace of­fer­ing, we will avert war.

Let me of­fer some his­tory as to why this is not a vi­able course, since it runs counter to pol­icy enun­ci­ated by Congress when it en­acted the Tai­wan Re­la­tions Act (TRA) and which has since been re-em­pha­sized re­peat­edly by the leg­isla­tive process for more than 30 years.

As some­one deeply en­gaged in the ne­go­ti­a­tions that led up to our diplo­matic recog­ni­tion of the PRC and who played a lead­er­ship role in the fram­ing and leg­isla­tive en­act­ment of the TRA, I would like to re­spond to Mr. Glaser’s well-mean­ing but in­ad­vis­able rec­om­men­da­tion that the U.S. re­vise its com­mit­ment to the main­te­nance of peace in the Pa­cific by trash­ing the Tai­wan Re­la­tions Act, leg­is­la­tion which was exquisitely drafted to nav­i­gate very sen­si­tive re­la­tion­ships im­pact­ing Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy.

Dur­ing one of the most dif­fi­cult pe­ri­ods in 1977, some seven years into an un­of­fi­cial re­la­tion­ship with China, I led, as chair­man of the House Com­mit­tee on In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions sub­com­mit­tee on Asian and Pa­cific af­fairs, a del­e­ga­tion to meet with Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping. We got along fa­mously. Our meet­ing turned out to be one of the most sig­nif­i­cant dis­cus­sions lead­ing up to diplo­matic recog­ni­tion.

Here is an ex­cerpt from the State Depart­ment’s re­port of the meet­ing:

“The chair­man of the House In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions Sub­com­mit­tee on Asian and Pa­cific Af­fairs, Lester Wolff, led one such con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion, which met with Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping on July 9. At this meet­ing Teng stated that China would re­spect re­al­i­ties on Tai­wan in work­ing to­ward uni­fi­ca­tion, and that China would do its best to cre­ate con­di­tions per­mit­ting so­lu­tion of the Tai­wan ques­tion by peace­ful means. This con­ver­sa­tion, re­ported back to the State Depart­ment by Con­gress­man Wolff and the mem­bers of his del­e­ga­tion, and other talks by Sen­a­tors and Con­gress­men vis­it­ing Pek­ing were im­por­tant in mov­ing for­ward the nor­mal­iza­tion process. On Septem­ber 19, 1978, Pres­i­dent Carter met with Am­bas­sador Chai Tsemin. Dur­ing this im­por­tant meet­ing, Am­bas­sador Chai re­ferred to the Teng-Wolff con­ver­sa­tion as be­ing of par­tic­u­lar im­por­tance in un­der­stand­ing China’s po­si­tion.”

Af­ter the of­fi­cial meet­ing was con­cluded, Premier Teng took me aside and in­structed me to pass a mes­sage to Pres­i­dent Carter. He told me to tell the pres­i­dent that we both should set aside Tai­wan as an im­ped­i­ment to our re­la­tion­ship and pro­ceed to en­gage in full diplo­matic re­la­tions. The process con­tin­ued and we dere­c­og­nized Tai­wan and set the course for a healthy re­la­tion­ship with the PRC and, though un­of­fi­cial, a ben­e­fi­cial re­la­tion­ship with Tai­wan that set it on a course of a true democ­racy.

In all the meet­ings I held with the Chinese, nei­ther Premier Teng nor his suc­ces­sors has ever re­nounced the use of force to en­able the re­uni­fi­ca­tion of Tai­wan and the PRC. It was un­der these cir­cum­stances that Sen. Ed­ward M. Kennedy and I worked to­gether to en­sure that of­fi­cial diplo­matic recog­ni­tion of our new re­la­tions with the PRC did not mean the aban­don­ment of the peo­ple of Tai­wan. To­gether, we in­tro­duced the se­cu­rity pro­vi­sions of the TRA to en­sure the free will of the peo­ple of Tai­wan:

Sec­tion 2(a)(1): “The Congress finds that the en­act­ment of this Act is nec­es­sary to help main­tain peace, se­cu­rity, and sta­bil­ity in the West­ern Pa­cific.”

Sec­tion 2(b)(3): “It is the pol­icy of the United States to make clear that the United States de­ci­sion to es­tab­lish diplo­matic re­la­tions with the PRC rests upon the ex­pec­ta­tion that the fu­ture of Tai­wan will be de­ter­mined by peace­ful means.”

The TRA is a unique and sig­nif­i­cant piece of leg­is­la­tion that has sur­vived more than 30 years. No other po­lit­i­cal ar­range­ment like it ex­ists.

Mr. Glaser seems will­ing to sac­ri­fice the right of 23 mil­lion peo­ple to self-de­ter­mi­na­tion by re­vers­ing the pro­tec­tion pro­vided those peo­ple by the United States through the TRA.

It was im­por­tant then and is still to­day. Congress’ in­tent was to pro­tect Tai­wan and its peo­ple from the in­cur­sion of any and all (po­lit­i­cal, se­cu­rity and/or eco­nomic) as­saults upon its in­tegrity and the free­dom of its peo­ple. The strug­gle of the peo­ple of Tai­wan to at­tain their vi­brant democ­racy should not con­tinue to be a pawn in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the United States and China. Peace and sta­bil­ity in the Pa­cific is the un­der­ly­ing rea­son Congress has main­tained its sup­port for the TRA over the years.

Amer­ica is now en­gaged in three wars, how­ever jus­ti­fied, to en­sure the free­doms of peo­ple all over the world, and Mr. Glaser wants to ad­vance the op­po­site by of­fer­ing up the Tai­wanese peo­ple as a “hu­man sac­ri­fice.” He ap­pears to want to put the hu­man and po­lit­i­cal rights of mil­lions of peo­ple at risk and walk away from the firm com­mit­ment the United States has made un­der the TSA, which is U.S. law. If there is any ques­tion of the legal re­al­i­ties per­tain­ing to the United States’ po­si­tion re­gard­ing Tai­wan, I re­fer to this law, which was passed by more than two-thirds of both cham­bers of Congress and signed by the pres­i­dent.

Putting aside the very trou­bling re­al­ity of the de­ploy­ment of the vast ar­ray of mis­siles China has tar­geted at Tai­wan, I must re­turn to the im­por­tant rea­son­ing be­hind the TRA and the leg­isla­tive his­tory of its en­act­ment. Here is the law:

Sec­tion 2(b)(6): “It is the pol­icy of the United States to main­tain the ca­pac­ity of the United States to re­sist any re­sort to force or other forms of co­er­cion that would jeop­ar­dize the se­cu­rity, or the so­cial or eco­nomic sys­tem, of the peo­ple on Tai­wan.” Sec­tion 2(b)(4): “It is the pol­icy of the United States to con­sider any ef­fort to de­ter­mine the fu­ture of Tai­wan by other than peace­ful means, in­clud­ing by boy­cotts or em­bar­goes, a threat to the peace and se­cu­rity of the West­ern Pa­cific area and of grave concern to the United States.” Tai­wanese Pres­i­dent Ma Ying-jeou and China have made re­mark­able strides in rec­on­cil­ing their dif­fer­ences. Let us not in­ter­fere in that process.

Lester L. Wolff is a re­tired Demo­cratic mem­ber of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from New York.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.