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Benjamin Gilman writes to President Clinton

Washington, 2 September 1999

In the beginning of September 1999, just before Mr. Clinton's departure to New Zealand to attend the APEC conference, the Chairman of the International Relations Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, Mr. Benjamin Gilman, wrote a letter to Mr. Clinton. He urged him to call upon China's President Jiang Zemin to renounce the use of force against Taiwan. The full text of the letter:

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Next week, when you travel to New Zealand to attend the APEC forum, it is expected that you will meet with President Jiang Zemin of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Considering the state of our bilateral relationship, this will be a very important meeting. It is my belief that Taiwan will be a central issue in your discussions with the Chinese. As you prepare to travel, I would like to share with you a few thoughts on this matter.

First, it is regrettable that President Jiang has continued to insist on the mainland's right to use force against Taiwan, and his recent comments in Australia have reinforced my continuing concern over China's willingness to use the military option. To this end, Mr. President, I would ask that you convey congressional concerns about overwrought Chinese saber rattling and the deleterious effect that it has on our bilateral relationship and regional stability.

In addition, I would request that you personally call upon the Chinese to renounce the use of force against Taiwan. Please remind President Jiang of American obligations under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act and our insistence on a peaceful solution to the Taiwan question as reaffirmed in the three U.S.-Sino communiques. I would also encourage you to ask other regional leaders to appeal publicly to the PRC to reject the military option against Taiwan.

Second, it is my belief that the United States should not play a mediating role between the PRC and Taiwan, and should not agree to become involved in the issue of determining Taiwan's sovereignty. In this light, the United States should not offer to pressure Taiwan to enter into political discussions regarding reunification with the PRC. Cross-strait talks should proceed at a pace and scope which reflects the desires of the people of Taiwan and their democratically-elected government.

I believe that the Congress would reject outright any arrangement which links Chinese concessions on a bilateral trade agreement and an American willingness to seek a retraction of President Lee's recent comments on the cross-strait relationship or compel Taipei to enter into political talks before they are willing.

Finally, considering the volatile situation that exists in the Taiwan Strait, I would recommend that the United States not participate in any joint statement with the PRC regarding Taiwan. Under no circumstances should the United States move toward Beijing's version of "One China." As you know, the United States has "acknowledged" in communiques Beijing's position that there is "One China" of which Taiwan is a part. But the United States has never conceded officially that Beijing is the capital of that "One China." This is a common misperception about America's "One China" policy, and one which should not be perpetuated. On this issue, we should be clear.

Mr. President, the maintenance of peace, security, and stability in the Western Pacific is in America's national interest, as are productive, stable ties with Beijing and Taipei. I hope that you will reflect on the concerns I have outlined in this letter and use your attendance at APEC to promote these interests by reaffirming our nation's abiding commitment to the TRA and a peaceful resolution to the Taiwan question.

With best wishes,





cc: The Honorable Sandy R. Berger
The Honorable Madeleine K. Albright
The Honorable William S. Cohen