Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Obama's Comments on Taiwan

A few weeks ago I contacted Illinois Senators Durbin and Obama regarding the delay by the U.S. government in the sale of defensive weapons to Taiwan. I stated my belief that the future of Taiwan should be determined by the people of Taiwan, not the government of the Peoples' Republic, and that replacing and updating Taiwan's self-defense capability helped ensure the safety of the people of Taiwan. The weapons delay has since been resolved, at least partially, which I'm sure was due solely to State Department timing, not my comments.

I don't generally receive replies from Senator Durbin, except for one time when he explained to me that I must be an idiot for not seeing things his way. Not hearing from him on this issue came as no surprise.

However, I did receive a reply from Senator Obama. Of course it's a carefully written and probably canned response from one of his staffers, but I thought you all might like to see what we might expect from a President Obama in regard to Taiwan:

Dear Don:

Thank you for contacting me to share your thoughts on U.S.-Taiwan relations. I appreciate having the benefit of your perspective on this issue.

Over the last few decades, Taiwan has made a transition to a full-fledged democracy with a vibrant economy. Today, Taiwan is a valued trading partner and has importance for U.S. political and security interests, and I agree that we must remain committed to the advancement of democracy and the preservation of human rights of the people of Taiwan. This means maintaining our military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, strengthening our alliances, and making clear to both Beijing and Taipei that a unilateral change in the states quo [sic] in the Taiwan Strait is unacceptable.

In the 110th Congress, Senators Johnson (D-SD) and Lott (R-MS) have introduced a Senate resolution S. Con. Res. 48, which expresses the sense of Congress that restrictions on visits by high-level elected and appointed officials of Taiwan should be lifted in order to strengthen a policy dialogue with Taiwan. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, you may rest assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind as I consider this and other pieces of legislation relevant to U.S.-Taiwan relations that come before the Senate.

Thank you again for writing. Please stay in touch.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama
United States Senator
I think there are two key elements in this note. One is that any unilateral change in the status quo between China and Taiwan is unacceptable to him. The other is that he may support the Senate resolution that would allow visits by high-level elected and appointed officials from Taiwan to Washington. That is as it should be and the diplomatic tip-toeing that has been U.S. policy for many years is, in my opinion, ridiculous and should be ended as quickly as possible.

It appears pretty likely at this point that Senator Obama will be our next president. Though I personally might prefer otherwise, I feel at least a little less apprehensive about the future of U.S.-Taiwan relations over the next few years after receiving this note. Of course that's assuming that his comments evolve into actual policy.

For an in-depth discussion of our relations with China and Taiwan, I suggest you check out this excellent piece by Ambassador Harvey Feldman at the Heritage Foundation website.

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