Apr 17, 2004

Taiwan: US Taiwan Relations Act serves global peace

The US Taiwan Relations Act celebrates its 25th anniversary
On saturday, the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) celebrated its 25th anniversary. Former US president Jimmy Carter terminated the 25-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty between the US and the Republic of China (ROC), and in return, established diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China (PRC) on Jan. 1, 1979. To bridge the vacuum in Taiwan's national security after the abolishment of the treaty, the US Congress ratified the TRA in April 1979. After being signed and promulgated by the US president, the TRA took effect as part of the US domestic law so as to to fulfill the US commitment to assist Taiwan to defend itself. Special in its status, the TRA continues to be the legal cornerstone of the "non-diplomatic" relationship between Taiwan and the US.

Aimed at protecting stability and security in Taiwan and facilitating economic, social and cultural exchanges between Taiwan and the US, the TRA regulates the US executive and legislative branches in handling Taiwan-related affairs. This act includes several important principles, as follows:

First, Taiwan is viewed almost as a state and enjoys all due treatments given to a state in the US. In the act, Taiwan is officially called "Taiwan" instead of "Republic of China."

Second, the act ties Taiwan's security closely to the US defense network in the Western-Pacific region. Once Taiwan's security is threatened, the US government will pay attention. All issues regarding Taiwan's future must be resolved peacefully.

Third, to help maintain peace, security and stability in the region, the US offers Taiwan arms sales in necessary quantities to equip it with adequate self-defense abilities.

Fourth, to promote democracy and protect the human rights of the Taiwanese people, the US helps Taiwan to cultivate and expand its diplomatic space in international organizations.

Fifth, the TRA and the Three Communiques (Shanghai Communique, Communique Establishing US-PRC Diplomatic Relations and the US-PRC Joint Communique on arms sales) lay the groundwork for the US "one China" policy. Although the TRA and the Three Communiques are often viewed as equals, the TRA is superior to the Three Communiques in view of the US constitutional system. While the TRA was passed by the US Congress and takes effect as a US domestic law, the Three Communiques is merely an "administrative agreement" between the US president and China. The US Congress takes no part in the Three Communiques.

Over the past 25 years, the TRA has made a significant contribution to maintain peace, security and stability in the Taiwan Strait and preserved space for Taiwan's democracy to thrive into the future. When China threatened Taiwan with its missile rehearsal during Taiwan's first-ever direct presidential election in 1996, the US sent the aircraft carrier Nimitz to make a run through the Taiwan Strait and to resolve the crisis -- strong proof of the TRA's efficacy. In the face of China's more than 500 missiles aimed at Taiwan and its stepping up military intimidation, the TRA's role appears increasingly indispensible.

The March 20 presidential election and the referendum are already in the past. Democracy in Taiwan has grown deeper roots. In commemoration of the TRA's 25th anniversary, the people and the government of Taiwan expect China to withdraw the missiles aimed at Taiwan, to establish a safety mechanism on the footing of mutual trust, to pave the way for permanent peace in and mutual prosperity across the Taiwan Strait.

Chen Lung-chu is the chair-man of Taiwan New Century Foundation.

Translated by Wang Hsiao-wen. Source: Taipei Times