On Tuesday, February 1st 2000, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act (TSEA) by an overwhelming majority of 341 to 70. The vote is a tribute to the farsightedness of the bipartisan majority in the House, and to the hard work of the Taiwanese-American community, in particular the Washington-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs.
The debate now shift to the Senate, where the Clinton Administration _ and the Chinese _ are expected to lobby hard against the bill. Mr. Clinton has already stated that the bill "..is not in Taiwan's best interest", while the Chinese Foreign Ministry has called the bill " a serious encroachment on China's sovereignty [and] a gross interference in China's internal affairs."
If we may take the Chinese statement first: the statement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry is a perfect example why the TSEA is needed: Contrary to the Chinese assertion, the fact is that China doesn't have any sovereignty over Taiwan, and that the China-Taiwan conflict is clearly an international question _ and can in no way be termed an "internal" affair by China.
China needs to come to the realization that the Chinese Civil War ended 51 years ago. It also needs to see clearly that the majority of the people of Taiwan didn't have anything to do with that Civil War. There is now a new Taiwan _ not the old "Republic of China" _ which wants to be a full and equal member of the international community.
China also needs to come to the realization that the sovereignty over Taiwan belongs to the people of Taiwan, and that it is in China's own interest to come to a peaceful accommodation with Taiwan. Peaceful coexistence as two neighboring states is the only _ and most obvious _ solution to the decades-old conflict.
Going to Mr. Clinton's statement next: it seems Mr. Clinton still fails to understand the basic essence of the Taiwan-China issue. That is: in order to enhance democracy in a particular region of the world _ in this case East Asia _ it is essential to express support of a nation that attained democracy so recently, i.e. Taiwan.
Mr. Clinton and his advisors say they are concerned about "upsetting the delicate balance" created by their deliberately ambiguous "one China" policy. It must be obvious to any observer that the balance is being upset by the fact that China is aiming some 200 missiles at Taiwan, and is rapidly modernizing its armed forces with a focused aim of coercing Taiwan into submission in the next few years.
It must also be obvious that the "one China" concept was a creation of the Cold War, when there were two competing Chinese regimes, the Nationalists and the Communists, each claiming to be the legitimate rulers of China. Since then, Taiwan has evolved into a thriving free market economy and multiparty democracy. It is thus time to discard the anachronistic "one China" concept, and move towards factual and realistic "One China, One Taiwan" principle.
Thus, why is the TSEA needed?
Firstly, because it states that "... Any determination of the ultimate status of Taiwan must have the express consent of the people on Taiwan." While this may be obvious to anyone with any sense of democracy, Mr. Clinton has never been willing to make this statement (until just last week), has failed to endorse the principle of self-determination for the people of Taiwan, and has _ instead _ let himself be deluded by the Chinese into his "Three No's," thus encouraging Chinese adventurism.
Secondly, while United States' policy is based on the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which has reasonably firm and clear provisions regarding Taiwan's safety and security, the Clinton Administration has hemmed and hawed on much-needed weapon sales to Taiwan, such as submarines and Theatre Missile Defense.
Thirdly, if the United States needs to go to Taiwan's aid in a crisis, a secure line of communications with Taiwan's military is indispensable. So are closer military ties, so each side can become familiar with the other's military doctrine, strategy and preparedness. The TSEA contains precisely such provisions, which will give substance to the American policy that any dispute between Taiwan and China must be resolved peacefully. Failure to establish the military links with Taiwan will invite PRC miscalculation.
In conclusion: the TSEA is a welcome supplement to the Taiwan Relations Act. It states more clearly than ever before that it is US policy that future status of Taiwan requires the democratically-expressed consent of the people of Taiwan, and it provides for much-needed military cooperation and coordination between Taiwan and the United States.
We urge the United States Senate to stand up for the principles of democracy, human rights, and self-determination, and support the people of Taiwan in their quest to have their nation be accepted by the international community as a full and equal member. This is the best guarantee for stability in East Asia. The TSEA is a welcome first step in this direction.
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