Washington, 20 May 1998. Mr. Chairman, I thank you and the
committee for this opportunity to express my views on some of the
issues regarding the U.S. Taiwan relationship. I have just returned
a week ago from my second visit to Taiwan in the last two months. As
usual, domestic politics generates the most interest in both the
media and in private conversations. The legislature is struggling
with the budget, and preparing for the election of the 4th
Legislative Yuan at the end of the year. Already there is
considerable speculation on the next presidential elections that
take place less then two years hence. Taiwan will have a new
president then , but who that will be is far from clear at this
The next most talked about subject is cross-straits relations.
Here the most immediate point of interest, aside from the resumption
of talks between the two sides, is the summit meeting scheduled for
next month in Beijing between Presidents Clinton and Jiang. I found
people there generally ambivalent about what they think the summit
will mean for Taiwan. There remains a strong residue of trust that
the U.S. will not harm their interests, but at the same time there
is great concern that the pressures generated by a summit meeting
between these two powers that have such importance for them, will
bring some gain to the PRC at Taiwan's expense.
Another reason behind the concern was the visits to Taiwan by
several former senior U.S. Government officials in past weeks who
apparently gave the impression of representing U.S. Government views
on cross-straits issues, many of which are hardly shared by the
authorities there. These officials and many others, including the
media, have intermingled the word "dialogue" and "negotiations"
in discussing resumption of cross-straits talks, causing more
speculation and concern.
This heightened concern is contrary to the government on Taiwan's
policy of lowering tensions between the two sides of the Straits.
Aside from the security dangers involved, higher tensions negatively
impact on the economy. There is, therefore, an interest shared with
us to resume a "dialogue" that would continue on as a
channel of communications between the two sides. "Negotiations",
on the other hand, are seen to mean addressing political issues,
which would have just the opposite effect, that is, it would raise
tensions. It will take considerably more time before sufficient
trust exists between the two sides to address these more difficult
Yet another reason for concern is the PRC efforts to place
unacceptable political conditions for resuming talks, and its use of
the media and visitors from the U.S. to promote a 4th communiqué,
reduce arms sales to Taiwan, and press the U.S. to make commitments
regarding Taiwan's future status.
A 4th communiqué clearly would be of domestic benefit for
the leadership in Beijing, and inevitably would include some
concessions on Taiwan, but it has been resisted by all
administrations almost since the third one was signed. Since the
Clinton-Jiang summit meeting in Washington last year, in fact,
Beijing has been referring to the "three communiqués and
the joint statement", putting the latter post- meeting
statement on an equal plane with the communiqués. It is not.
It may play well domestically in the PRC, but another communiqué
would be of no benefit to the U.S.
The U.S. has and should continue to resist any effort to limit our
capacity to decide matters about our arms sales to Taiwan. Our
ability to maintain flexibility has served our interests well over
the years. Further communiqués will only restrict our ability
to adapt to the changed circumstances on both sides of the Straits,
an important factor not only for Taiwan but to the broader regional
implications of our security commitments in East Asia.
Furthermore, at the time we agreed to the '82 Communiqué,
we gave Taiwan six assurances that remain of fundamental importance
to them. These assurances are well known but never publicly stated
as such by the U.S. side. I believe these can be found in the
Congressional record as being that the U.S.:
- did not agree to set a date certain for ending arms sales to
- did not agree to engage in prior consultations with Beijing on
arms sales to Taiwan.
- sees no mediation role for the U.S.
- has no plans to seek revision of the Taiwan Relations Act.
- has no change in our long standing position on the issue of
sovereignty over Taiwan.
- will not attempt to exert pressure on Taiwan to enter into
negotiations with the PRC.
Their formal status is unclear, and apparently not the equivalent
of the communiqués. A public statement of this commitment
would do much to raise their status, and reassure the people of
Our policy with regard to Taiwan's future status, we have
repeatedly said, is a matter for the two sides to decide. Yet,
especially in circumstances such as summit meetings, we have been
pressed by the PRC to refine this statement of policy. First by
adding that we do not support (Beijing urges us to "oppose",
an entirely different position) two Chinas, or one China - one
Taiwan; and more recently, Taiwan independence and Taiwan membership
in the U.N. We get no benefit from limiting options, even ones we
may not want to see as long as they are opposed by Beijing. We get
no quid pro quo for making Beijing feel more comfortable, and limit
our own leverage should we ever want to use it.
The possibility that the U.S. might discuss such matters clearly
makes Taiwan very uneasy. Time is needed to develop a consensus in
Taiwan on the Taiwan - PRC relationship before that island can be
prepared to address a formal relationship with Beijing. The
excitement, brought on by democracy, of openly debating the issue of
Taiwan's political status has already moderated to a surprising
degree in only a few short years. A greater degree of consensus has
been reached, but it is a slow, laborious process. One must remember
that some political leaders who now hold the responsibilities of
elected office spent time in jail for their political views not very
The differences among the people on the subject of national
identity remains Taiwan's most vexing problem. When one recalls a
few years ago, representatives were cast out of the National
Assembly for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the Republic
of China. The resulting student demonstration, Taiwan's largest
ever, at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial in the center of Taipei, was
calmed by President Lee, Teng-hui talking to them personally and
promising a National Affairs Conference to address their concerns.
This was only a year after a far different method was used to
disburse the students gathered in Tien An Men. Since then, extremist
actions have calmed considerably, and in a second national
conference a few months ago, some important steps were agreed toward
forming a better consensus on Taiwan's national identity. There is
still much to be done, but progress has been made.
The leadership of the opposition party, which has as its objective
the independence of Taiwan, has moved closer to the middle ground on
the cross-straits issue. It is unlikely the party could renounce its
objective, but increasingly that becomes a long-term ultimate
objective much like unification is for the ruling party. In the
meantime, other policies of the two main parties are not far apart.
Aside from this one issue, there are some differences over economic
policies, but few on matters of security and foreign policy. Time
could help to bring even greater consensus among the people on the
There is also in today's Taiwan a situation that resembles the
kind of split government we have here in Washington. The ruling
party holds the executive branch, the legislature is almost equally
divided, and the opposition holds most local government posts. As we
know, this kind of situation calls for skill, patience, and
compromise to resolve problems.
Examples of this were seen in the process of amending the
constitution recently. Each amendment had to be balanced by another
to satisfy both the ruling party and the opposition. This is also
true in the critical cross-straits relations. Movements to
strengthen economic relations with the PRC to satisfy one
constituency, for example, must be balanced by movements to gain
more international support as a separate entity to satisfy another
The PRC, of course, does not accept this political reality on
Taiwan, and seems to have increased its efforts to isolate Taiwan in
the international community. To some, efforts by Taiwan to expand
its international participation seems provocative, given the PRC
opposition. It is, however, a matter of survival for Taiwan. Without
international support Taiwan would be at the mercy of the PRC in
negotiating or even discussing a future relationship.
One of the reasons Congress, in the TRA, assured that arms sales
of defensive weapons should continue even after the break in
relations was to provide Taiwan with the confidence it would need in
future dealings with the PRC. The latter has always strongly opposed
this program, and has continually pressed the U.S. to phase it out,
almost succeeding in the '82 Communiqué. Yet American
insistence on continuing the program has helped to maintain
stability in the Straits - a fundamental American interest - and
permitted the people of Taiwan to develop their economy and
establish their democratic political system.
The same could be said of supporting participation by Taiwan in
international organizations. It would be strongly opposed by the
PRC, but it would be in our interest to have a Taiwan contributing
its resources and knowledge to the international community, and
subjecting itself to the same rules we observe. Even in the Taiwan
Policy Review , it was recognized that "Taiwan has a legitimate
role to play in a number of international issues, and it is in the
general international interest and our own for Taiwan's voice to be
heard by appropriate international organizations."
Unfortunately, that recognition did not generate any improvement in
our policy, on the contrary, the U.S. went the opposite direction by
indicating it would not support Taiwan's entry into any
international organization that required statehood - which includes
the most important ones, i.e. those in the U.N. system.
Some form of membership in these organizations could also provide
a useful platform for meetings between the two sides thereby
contributing to stability. In answering those who would like the
U.S. to take a more active role in resolving the cross-straits
issue, we usually reaffirm our policy that the U.S. does not want to
broker that difficult issue itself, but to help create the
atmosphere for the two sides to do so themselves. I agree. But one
of the best platforms would be an international organization in
which the two sides could meet informally in a neutral setting. In
addition, like the arms sales program, taking part in international
activities would give Taiwan the confidence to face the future in
dealing with the PRC. Unfortunately, our policy supports the PRC in
isolating Taiwan from these organizations.
Innovative special memberships for some international
organizations could be developed for Taiwan that would make it
possible to keep within whatever commitments we have with the PRC.
The present Asian Financial Crisis is demonstrating once again, as
it did during the Persian Gulf War, that it serves no one's interest
to keep Taiwan, with its resources and capabilities, from
contributing to the international community's needs. As for Taiwan,
where will it turn for help, should it need to do so, if it has a
financial crisis? To the IMF? Or the World Bank?
In the Taiwan Policy Review, completed three years ago, and meant
to adjust our relationship to accommodate to the changes that have
occurred in Taiwan, among other things, we limited ourselves to
supporting Taiwan's entry only to those international organizations
that did not require statehood. That would not prevent developing
special memberships in those that do, but even the narrow
interpretation given to what we would support has had no result - to
my knowledge not even one. Aside from arms sales, international
support is Taiwan's most critical need. Yet, our policy does just
the opposite - by saying we do not support Taiwan's participation,
we support Beijing's efforts to isolate Taiwan from international
The Taiwan Policy Review recognized that profound changes have
taken place in China and Taiwan, and the study was an effort to
accommodate changing circumstances there. Despite the profound
nature of the changes, however, the study admitted that the
adjustments made were only refinements of existing policy.
In fact, it limited itself to toying with elements of conducting
the relationship, not in addressing any substantive issues. Was this
not the time to face up to broader questions, for example, such as
we did in 1972 when we accepted that realistically we had to deal
with the PRC, and established liaison offices in each other's
capitals? The far more restrictive system established for Taiwan in
1979 may have been appropriate at a time when it was generally
believed that Taiwan would soon be absorbed by the PRC. But today's
Taiwan is clearly a de facto country that in its present form or in
some other, is likely to be around for quite some time.
The system for conducting an "unofficial" relationship
was entirely devised by us. There is nothing in the communiqués
or any other agreement with the PRC that spells out how we are to
conduct this relationship, other than it was to be "unofficial".
We then proceeded to devise one that is based almost entirely on
what we thought the PRC would think about any particular activity.
Thus we spelled out a very intricate, complex, expensive and
inefficient system of doing business with each other without seeming
to do so, for Beijing's benefit. At times this makes us appear
silly. I.e. prescribing what buildings these supposedly private
persons from Taiwan can enter, for example; or dangerous, i.e. no
military contacts whatever even when our ships or planes of the
seventh fleet even routinely operate in the Taiwan Straits area.
If we wish to provide greater encouragement to Taiwan in
addressing its relationship with the PRC, I suggest three actions we
could take in this regard:
- we could make our six assurances to Taiwan a matter of public
record through a statement from the Administration or through
- we could establish a policy that we will support Taiwan's
participation in some form in international organizations to which
it can make a clear contribution.
- we could further revise our own rules on conducting this
unofficial relationship to allow more realistic opportunities for
dialogue between us, including at senior levels.
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