What you need to know
An open letter to US President Donald Trump ahead of the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act.
Dear President Trump,
The United States and Taiwan have enjoyed a robust and unique partnership over the past four decades. Taiwan is one of the most reliable and strongest allies of the U.S. in the Asia Pacific and has grown into one of democracy's leading lights.
April 10, 2019 will mark the 40th anniversary of the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), an important piece of legislation that has served as the cornerstone of the strong relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan, which was passed by the United States Congress and signed into law in 1979.
For 40 years, the Taiwan Relations Act has provided a vehicle for peace in the Pacific and a means of maintaining a direct relationship with the more than 23 million Taiwanese people who make up one of our most important allies and trading partners. This legislation provides an institutional framework and legal basis for our continued relations with Taiwan after the end of formal diplomatic ties.
The 40th anniversary not only represents an important milestone in the longstanding relationship between the U.S. and Taiwan; it also consolidates the foundation on which the bilateral security, economic and trade relations will continue to grow and flourish and reassures U.S. commitment to maintain peace and stability in the region. Helping Taiwan make further meaningful contributions in the region is in the interest of the United States and in line with the spirit of the TRA.
Taiwan was and continues to be one of the most reliable allies of the U.S. The security provisions of the TRA have provided strength to a climate of peace in the Pacific. The economic growth of Taiwan has provided a basis for increased trade with the United States; Taiwan is now a critically important trade partner of the U.S.
However, there are several where the United States should seek to strengthen ties with Taiwan and to bring into reality the legislative intent of the Taiwan Relations Act.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that he would not renounce the use of force to achieve unification with Taiwan and China has been building military outposts in the South China Sea. In light of the Chinese threat against Taiwan, the U.S. needs to stand up for what the act says and make it very clear that its relationship with Taiwan is an important one.
Taiwan is a good friend and partner of the U.S., and Taipei has been providing assistance to Washington in dealing with a wide range of matters on the global stage. A move by the U.S. to continue its commitment to Taiwan is critical to the security of Washington, since the two sides have established close ties through their attitudes toward democracy and human rights. U.S.-Taiwan ties are vital to the peace in Asia Pacific.
Given the increasing threat that China poses to Taiwan and to regional stability, it is in the interests of the United States to strengthen Taiwan's defense capabilities against China. The best way to defend the democratic island from an unprovoked attack is for Washington to provide the next-generation jet fighters requested by Taipei and allow Taiwan to at least ensure that it can defend itself and that its self-defense capabilities are never eroded.
America’s commitment to Taiwan’s safety and security is a hallmark of the TRA. By helping Taiwan with its self-defense needs, we encourage peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, which has fostered prosperity and economic growth in the region. Because of its proximity to and rapprochement with China, Taiwan has carved out a unique role in the Asian Pacific as the stakes grow in the evolution of U.S.-China relations from a predominantly cooperative bond to one that is primarily an overt rivalry.
Washington must work with Taipei together toward a trilateral win-win relationship. Rather than fearing possible damage to bilateral ties with China, Washington must work closely with Taipei and take advantage of the benefits this important partnership can offer.
Mr. President, our commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the TRA is an excellent opportunity to reflect on current and past successes in U.S.-Taiwan relations. It is also an opportunity to chart a future path for our ties that is grounded in our legal obligations under the TRA to provide necessary support to allies and friends in a region where hard power still matters.
In the midst of the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, the U.S.-Taiwan relationship should be leveraged as a fundamental component of the U.S. rebalance and not a sub-issue in U.S.-China ties. Taiwan possesses intrinsic value as a flourishing democracy, an economic powerhouse, and most importantly, a long-standing security partner in East Asia.
Thanks to the TRA over the past 40 years, the United States and Taiwan have enjoyed a firm foundation of friendship that we continue to build today. Looking forward, as we commemorate the 40th anniversary of this landmark legislation, Mr. President, I heartily ask you to continue to support Taiwan's democracy, freedom and economic prosperity and continue to maintain a strong relationship with Taiwan. It deserves our support in fulfilling the intent of the Congressional drafters of the Taiwan Relations Act.
Kent Wang is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Taiwan-America Studies who publishes frequently on the Taiwan issue in Sino-American relations, as well as other topics on East Asian international politics and regional security.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The News Lens.
Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)
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