Taiwan: U.S. Support Abated
"While still pursuing a closer U.S.
relationship with Taiwan, U.S. officials now appear to be balancing criticisms of the PRC military buildup opposite Taiwan with periodic cautions and warnings to the effect that U.S. support for Taiwan is not unconditional, but has limits," the report said.
The report titled "Taiwan: Recent Developments and U.S. Policy Choices" was written by Kerry Dumbaugh, a specialist in Asian affairs at the CRS' Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division.
The report said that early in its tenure, the George W. Bush administration seemed to abandon the long-standing U.S. policy of "strategic ambiguity" on Taiwan in favor of "strategic clarity" that placed more emphasis on Taiwan's interests and less on PRC concerns.
For example, Bush publicly stated in 2001 that the United States would do "whatever it takes" to help defend Taiwan and approved a substantial sale of U.S. weapons to Taiwan, the report noted.
It said the White House was more accommodating to visits by Taiwan officials than previous U.S. administrations, permitting visits by President Chen Shui-bian in 2001 and by Vice President Annette Lu in 2003.
With support for Taiwan growing in the U.S. Congress, a House Congressional Taiwan Caucus was established in 2002 and a Senate Taiwan Caucus was set up in 2003, it said.
However, while Chen's position that Taiwan already "is an independent, sovereign country" has worried many Taiwan voters, the recent string of corruption scandals allegedly involving government officials and Chen's family members have led to record-low approval ratings for Chen and a mounting political outcry against him, the report said.
"These political trends have raised anxieties about the possibility of a future political or constitutional crisis in Taiwan that could further complicate U.S. policy," the report said.
It said U.S. officials have been under subtle but increasing pressure from both Taipei and Beijing to become directly involved in some aspects of cross-Taiwan Strait relations.
In late 2003, Beijing officials began quietly urging Washington to pressure Chen into shelving plans for a national referendum, and in 2004, they pressed U.S. officials to avoid sending the "wrong signals" to Taiwan, the report said.
Taipei officials, on the other hand, have begun suggesting that the United States strengthen or reevaluate the Taiwan Relations Act and support Chen's constitutional reform plans, the report said.
Meanwhile, Taiwan supporters within the U.S. Congress continue to press for more favorable U.S. treatment of Taiwan and for Taiwan's inclusion in international organizations, it said.
"Faced with competing pressures and with continuing transformations in both the PRC and Taiwan systems, U.S. officials may be facing new and more difficult policy choices concerning Taiwan in the next few years," the report said.
Under these circumstances, the U.S. government might take any number of actions, including reassessing all the fundamentals of U.S. policy on China-Taiwan in light of changing circumstances, reinforcing American democratic values by providing greater support for Taiwan and possibly support for Taiwan independence, or abandoning Taiwan in favor of the geopolitical demands and benefits of close U.S.-China relations, the report said.