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Benjamin Gilman congratulates president Chen

Washington, 28 March 2000

U.S. Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman (20th-NY), Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, made the following statement today during House Floor consideration of H. Con. Res. 292, congratulating the people of Taiwan on a successful presidential election:

I rise today in support of House Concurrent Resolution 292 introduced in the House by Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the people of Taiwan on a very successful election and for taking another step in consolidating their democratic evolution.

They should be very proud of their achievement, registering a voter turnout of over 80%. They have clearly articulated their determination to build a society of freedom and democracy. On May 20th of this year, for the first time in Taiwan's history of over 400 years, the mantle of executive power will pass from one democratically- elected president to another. This should serve as a source of pride for Chinese everywhere.

This peaceful transfer of power will take place despite the misguided attempts by the government in Beijing to intimidate Taiwan's voters and candidates and influence the outcome of this democratic election. The new government of Chen Shui-Bian faces many challenges as it ascends to office. I look forward to learning more of his vision for his administration.

I want to commend the president-elect for his proposal of embarking on a journey of reconciliation with Beijing and his offer to meet with China's leaders. Talks between Taipei and Beijing should only go forward at a pace and scope acceptable to both parties.

I want to encourage the PRC to exercise restraint; to avoid fanning the flames of nationalism over Taiwan in an effort to divert attention from internal problems; to open substantive dialogue with Taipei; and to end its history of military threats toward the island.

As has been long-standing American policy, it is essential that the future of Taiwan be determined in a peaceful, non-coercive, and mutually-agreeable manner to the people on both sides of the Strait. I hope the world will take adequate notice of what has just transpired in Taiwan. That being that another Asian nation has fully embraced democratic practices and principles.

This further proves that democracy is not an eastern or western value as some might contend, but a universal value and the right of people everywhere. I especially hope that the 1.2 billion people of the PRC and their unelected government take particular notice of the prosperous, free, and open model Taiwan provides for China's future.

With the new government comes new opportunities. Accordingly, I call upon the Clinton administration to work productively with the new government and treat president-elect Chen as an equal partner in addressing cross-Strait issues.

I also urge the administration to adhere to the "Reagan Six Assurances." As you recall, in July 1982, the Reagan Administration wisely promised Taipei that it would not: 1) set a date for the ending of arms sales to Taiwan; 2) consult with China on arms sales; 3) play a mediation role between the PRC and Taiwan; 4) revise the Taiwan Relations Act; 5) change its position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan; or 6) exert pressure on Taipei to enter into negotiations with Beijing.

Regrettably, the "Six Assurances" have been set aside in part, or completely ignored, by the Clinton administration. These commonsense guarantees are a solid basis for American Taiwan policy and should be re-institutionalized as guideposts for the conduct of bilateral relations with Taipei and Beijing.

I would recommended strongly that the Clinton administration take no action to delay or undermine this year's arms sales talks with Taiwan. The talks should be concluded as scheduled on April 24th and Taiwan's legitimate defense needs should be met in light of China's continuing military build-up.

Despite protestations by many to the contrary, China is in fact precipitating an arms race in Asia and is working towards achieving military superiority over Taiwan and the ability to influence the island's future through coercion, an action in direct contravention to long-standing American policy and US-Sino communiques.

You can be assured that Beijing will move at some point in the future to test the mettle of the new Taipei government. China is biding its time for the moment while a vote on Permanent Normal Trade Relations hangs in the balance in the Congress.

But once that issue is addressed and the new Taiwanese administration is inaugurated, China may opt to act militarily against Taiwan. The misguided restricting of arms sales by the Clinton administration to Taiwan now will only serve to increase the likelihood of Chinese adventurism, miscalculation, and military confrontation over Taiwan's future.

Any equivocating on this year's arms sales process will send the wrong signal at the wrong time to both China and Taiwan. Instead of eclipsing a crisis through strength and deterrence, the Clinton administration may be in fact fomenting a crisis through weakness and indecision.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this legislation and I want to thank the Majority Leader for his good work. Accordingly, I urge my colleagues to strongly support this measure and congratulate the people of Taiwan on a free and fair election. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.