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U.S. Representatives back President Lee's assertion of statehood for the island

A bi-partisan delegation of seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives led by International Relations Committee chairman Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) visited Taiwan from August 8-10, 1999.

They praised Taiwan's president for his recent demand that China treat Taiwan equally as a state, squaring off against President Clinton's administration over the latest Taiwan-China tensions.

President Lee Teng-hui was justified in making his appeal, and China must bear responsibility for damage to security in the region, read a statement issued by a congressional delegation led by Rep. Benjamin Gilman, chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

''We understand what President Lee was doing and that he was facing reality and I think we all have empathy for his approach to the problem,'' said Gilman.

It is our view that the two sides should engage in a dialogue with equals," Gilman said in the statement.

He added that there are concerns in the U.S. Congress that Washington is leaning ''too much'' toward Beijing and should be ''more even-handed'' regarding cross-strait relations. ''Especially at this critical time Taiwan deserves a lot more support than we have been giving at the administration level,'' Gilman said. He said any change in the island's status should come only with the consent of the Taiwan people.

They strongly backed Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui's assertion of statehood for the island as they ended the visit, while urging Washington to lend greater support to Taiwan amid rising tension with China.

Statement by House International Relations Committee
Chairman Rep. Benjamin Gilman's (R-NY) upon departing from

Taiwan on August 10, 1999 after two-day trip to Taiwan leading a

Congressional delegation consisting of the following Representatives:

Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-NY), Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Robert Underwood (D-Guam), Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA), Rep. Robert Ney (R-OH)

"We are pleased to note that our visit to Taiwan has been, we consider, a very successful visit. We've had full and productive conferences and we welcomed the opportunity to share views with some of Taiwan's most senior officials. We're grateful for their candid expressions and thinking on all of the important issues confronting Taiwan at this time. We are especially grateful for the warm hospitality that has been extended to us by the people of Taiwan.

We've had good meetings with President Lee, Vice President Lien, National Security Council Secretary General Yin, Defense Minister Tang, Acting Foreign Minister Lee, Chairman Su of the Mainland Affairs Council, and Chairman Lin of the DPP. We were warmly received by all. Our extensive discussions we feel were highly productive and they also helped us and enhanced our understanding of President Lee's decision on cross-Strait relations and Taiwan's hopes for the future.

We expressed our nation's abiding interest in peace and stability in East Asia and for the peaceful resolution of Taiwan's future. We expressed our concern about Chinese "saber rattling" over President Lee's state-to-state remarks and its effect on the confidence and security-building in the region. As we leave Taiwan, we are calling upon the PRC to renounce the use of force against Taiwan.

Furthermore, recognizing that Taiwan is governed by a democratically-elected president, we strongly support President Lee's right to address Taipei's views of the cross-Strait relationship. It is our view that the two sides should engage in a dialogue as equals.

To this end, we believe that talks with Beijing should proceed at a pace and scope that is supported by all of the citizens of Taiwan. As a democracy, any change in Taiwan's status should come only with the consent of the people of Taiwan. President Lee should not feel pressured to negotiate until China is a democracy, to negotiate a reunification until such time.

We also expressed our belief that Taiwan should have better international representation in international bodies and be recognized in those bodies. The 22 million people of Taiwan deserve this fundamental right no less than any other global citizen.

Finally, we hope that our visit has in some way strengthened our long-standing bonds of friendship between the United States and Taiwan - a relationship which is based on our shared commitment to democracy, to freedom, to respect for human rights and for a market economy."


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