Statement by Gerald Solomon (R-NY)

Washington, 10 October 1998

Mr. SOLOMON. Mr. Speaker, I cannot help but think how things have a way of coming about full circle. As a freshman Member of this body 20 years ago, the first bill I worked on was the Taiwan Relations Act. I still believe that the legislation is one of the most significant achievements of my career and certainly of the whole period in which I have served in this Congress. Again, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Gilman) was an integral part of that whole legislation.

Mr. Speaker, Members who have come to the House more recently may wonder why it is that so many of us more senior Members from both sides of the aisle are so concerned about Taiwan. Let me tell the Members why. When President Carter broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan in favor of recognizing Communist mainland China, that marked the only time in 210 years of constitutional history that our government has broken relations with a treaty ally without provocation and during a time of peace.

Whatever Members may have thought about the merits or the demerits of recognizing mainland Communist China, Members from both sides of the aisle at all points on the philosophical spectrum realized that a profoundly important and potentially dangerous precedent was being established by doing just that. Members reasoned that if America is seen as being unfaithful to its allies, America will soon have no allies at all. So the Taiwan Relations Act was enacted as a way of assuring the people of Taiwan that America was not abandoning them and that the representatives of the American people, we Members of Congress, overwhelmingly stood solidly with them, regardless of the fact that the President, having the constitutional authority to conduct foreign policy, saw fit to derecognize them at that time. The entire world, and especially our other allies in Asia, needed that same reassurance.

In the years since then, many Members, myself included, have served as watchdogs to make sure that the Taiwan Relations Act, and that is the law of the land right today, Mr. Speaker, is adhered to in both the letter and the spirit of law. The most important thing to be concerned about is that nothing be done, nothing ever be done, by omission or by commission, that can be construed as undercutting Taiwan or pressuring Taiwan to yield to coercion from mainland China. Mainland China is very good about doing that. They are great intimidators.

Mr. Speaker, the Taiwan Relations Act was a creative response to the unprecedented diplomatic challenge posed by the desire, in fact, the need, to maintain and protect close ties with a historic friend that found itself laboring under the burden of an ambiguous national identity, and still does. One would have hoped that similarly creative thinking would have been done in various international institutions around the world, but that has not been especially forthcoming, and again, the reason is through the direct intimidation by the Communist Peoples' Republic of China.

Nevertheless, we have an opportunity today to do something positive. The resolution before us expresses the sense of Congress that Taiwan and its 21 million people, 21 million people, should have an appropriate and meaningful representation in the World Health Organization, and that the Clinton administration is urged to pursue an initiative to that end. That is what this resolution is all about.

Mr. Speaker, if there ever was a good place to start this, it is the World Health Organization. Let me tell the Members why. The World Health Organization is a humanitarian organization, as we all know. It is one of the few important international organizations that is not infected with what I call a political agenda. It is not prone to the bureaucratic growth, as most of these international organizations are.

Taiwan, and Members all should listen to this, Taiwan was a charter member of the World Health Organization and, as the resolution notes, made important contributions to the global fight against disease before being deprived of membership in 1972. Taiwan has continued progress since then in eradicating disease and in establishing high standards of public health at home. That in fact means that it can contribute even more to the world today if the programs and cooperative forums of the World Health Organization were open to Taiwan's participation, again, with 21 million people.

Let me tell the Members how significant 21 million people is. We cannot pretend that a free and prosperous and advanced society of that many people does not exist. Indeed, Taiwan, and this is a point that I wanted to make, Taiwan has a larger population than three-fourths of the Members of the World Health Organization. Can Members imagine that? Mr. Speaker, the resolution calls for those 21 million people to have an appropriate and meaningful participation in the World Health Organization. That is what it does.

Surely the imagination exists to find a way to do that. If there ever is a problem, it would seem to be a matter of will. But let this House make its voice heard, that Taiwan deserves to participate in the important work of the World Health Organization, and their 21 million need and deserve to be the beneficiaries of that organization. Taiwan has an awful lot to contribute.

Mr. Speaker, for this resolution I would just hope it would pass unanimously. I would like to give great credit for the wording of this resolution to my good friend, the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Douglas Bereuter), a classmate of mine 20 years ago. We helped also to write the Taiwan Relations Act. I would like to pay tribute to him and to the gentleman from New York (Chairman Gilman) as I have spoken of before for his consideration.

This probably is the last time that he and I will collaborate here on this floor on a matter of common concern, and I thank him for all of his help through the years, both the gentleman from Nebraska (Mr. Bereuter) and him. Also, I think I saw the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Brown) come in. I would just like to also thank him for his interest on this issue. He and I were in Taiwan not too long ago, and he feels as strongly as I do about this measure.

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