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   Statement from Senator Torricelli

SENATE March 8, 2000
TOPIC: ELECTIONS IN TAIWAN
SPEAKER: SENATOR TORRICELLI (D-NJ)

Mr. TORRICELLI. Mr. President, during this generation we have witnessed the greatest expansion of democratic nations in history. From East Asia to Eastern Europe to Latin America and the islands of the Pacific, the blessings of democratic pluralism have expanded to the very bounds of each continent. It is in the proudest legacies of this Nation that the United States has played an essential role in facilitating the transition of these nations to democracy and their protection at critical moments.

From military defense to economic assistance, it is questionable whether Korea, Poland, Haiti, and scores of other nations would be free if it were not for the leadership of the United States. Now this generation of American leadership has a new challenge. As certainly as our parents and grandparents fought to ensure that these nations would have an opportunity to be free, it is our responsibility to assure that these fledgling democracies have an opportunity to remain free, a challenge that democracy is not a transitional state but a permanent condition of mankind, and the nations that would represent them.

There is one threat developing now before us to this proposition. It involves the people of Taiwan. During the late 1980s and 1990s, Taiwan underwent an extraordinary transformation from an authoritarian regime to a genuine democracy. Taiwan provided an example of peaceful political evolution from a military and authoritarian government to a true pluralist democracy with little violence, no military confrontation, and without a revolution.

After years of justifying tight security control, step by step, year by year, Taiwan created a genuine democracy. In

1986, a formal opposition party, the Democratic Progressive Party, was formed. And in 1987, martial law was ended after more than 40 years. In 1991, President Lee ended the Government's emergency powers to deal with dissent and a new, freely elected legislature chosen by the people was created. In 1996, Taiwan's democracy had matured to the point that a Presidential election was held. Taiwan had fully developed. Democracy had come of age.

Now, in only a few days, on March 18, Taiwan will hold its second democratic Presidential election. The challenge to this democracy and the rights of freedom of press, worship, and assembly so central to maintaining human freedom are no longer under attack from within. The pressure is from Beijing. On the very eve of these elections, the People's Republic of China issued a statement that constitutes a new threat to Taiwanese democracy. China recently issued its so-called white paper which warned that if Taiwan indefinitely delays negotiations on reunification, China will `adopt all drastic measures possible, including the use of force.'

This goes beyond China's previous statements that it would take Taiwan by force only if it declares independence or were occupied by a foreign power. The more democratic Taiwan has become, the lower the bar appears to be for military intervention and a hostile settling of the Taiwan issue.

These aggressive statements obviously only serve to increase tension in the region and make a peaceful settlement among the people of Taiwan and the People's Republic of China much more difficult. This belligerent approach obviously has precedent, almost an exact precedent. In 1996, also on the eve of a Presidential election in Taiwan, the People's Republic launched missiles in a crude attempt to intimidate the people of Taiwan as they approached their election.

It now appears that the election of Taiwan's new President will be close. It is critical to the functioning of Taiwan's democracy that they thwart any belief in Beijing that intimidation will solve or contribute to the relationship between these peoples. It is critical that the people of Taiwan stand resolute and that their voters not allow these actions to intimidate them.

There is obviously an American role. The United States must respond to this ultimatum by making it absolutely clear that our position is firm; it is unequivocal. The dispute between Taiwan and Beijing will not be settled by military means, and the United States, in a policy that is not unique to Taiwan, will not idly witness a free people in a democratic nation be invaded or occupied and have their political system altered by armed aggression.

This, I believe, is the cornerstone of American foreign policy in the postwar period. It remains central to who we are as a people and our role as the world's largest and most powerful democracy. Any ambiguity will, on the other hand, only serve to embolden Beijing and can lead to dangerous misinterpretations and miscalculations.

There is, within this Congress, the opportunity to end any possible ambiguity. The House of Representatives has passed, and the Senate has before it, the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act. Senator Helms and I introduced this legislation last year in the Senate. The House has spoken overwhelmingly in favor of our legislation, as modified. The question is before this Senate.

The legislation Senator Helms and I have offered is designed to ensure Taiwan's ability to meet its defensive security needs and to resist Chinese intimidation. It imposes no new obligations on the United States. The legislation, as passed by the House, will simply strengthen the process for selling defense articles by requiring an annual report to Congress on Taiwan's defense requests and ensuring that Taiwan has full access to data on defense articles. It mandates the sale of nothing. It requires the transfer of no specific article. It does guarantee that this Congress understand the security situation, Taiwan's requests, and a flow of information. It improves Taiwan's military readiness by supporting Taiwan's participation in U.S. military academies, ensuring that their military personnel are trained, understand American doctrine, and could coordinate if there were a crisis. This is not only good for Taiwan, it is good for the United States, ensuring that if tragically there ever should be a confrontation, our own Armed Forces are in the best position to train people familiar with our doctrine and any mutual obligations.

Finally, it requires that the United States establish secure, direct communications between the American Pacific Command and Taiwan's military. Nothing would be more tragic than to enter into a military confrontation by mistake or misinformation. This ensures reliable, fast, secure information so the situation is available to our own military commanders.

The legislation does not commit the United States to take any specific military actions now, later, or ever. A full range of options are available to the President and to the Congress. It also does not alter or amend our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act. Rather, it helps us to fulfill those commitments under the act and ensures that Taiwan's security needs are
adequately met.

If we pass this legislation, it makes it less likely that we will become engaged in any future conflict because there will be no ambiguity, no chance of miscalculation because of Taiwan's ability to strengthen itself, and because of our mutual ability to assess defensive needs, less chance of a military calculation in the mistaken belief that either Taiwan will not be defended or have the ability to defend itself.

There is an important national interest in integrating the People's Republic of China into the world's economy and in promoting the growth of democracy and human rights in a nation that will play a vital role in the coming century. But our overall relationship cannot possibly develop quickly and positively if China continues to seek a military solution to the question of its relations with the people of Taiwan.

By not making our policy clear, by not assessing the military situation, we do not contribute to the avoidance of military conflict. We enhance the possibility of military conflict. This legislation, I believe, is a strong statement that avoids miscalculation and lessens the chances of conflict. President Clinton made a strong statement last week in support of a peaceful resolution of this issue when he said:

Issues between Beijing and Taiwan must be resolved peacefully and with the assent of the people of Taiwan.

This formulation's emphasis on the `assent of the people'--the words used by President Clinton--is new and important.

Together with this Taiwan Enhancement Security Act, I believe it is an important contribution in this current debate on the problems of Taiwan security. It is, most importantly, in accord with the language of the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act as passed by the House, which states, `Any determination of the ultimate status of Taiwan must have the express consent of the people of Taiwan.'

The Taiwan Enhancement Security Act, therefore, and President Clinton's own statement in response to recent provocations by Beijing, are not only similar, they are identical. I believe the House of Representatives, in changing the Helms-Torricelli approach, has made a valuable contribution. I believe, for the maintenance of the peace and ensuring this Nation's commitment, that those nations which have chosen to be democratic, pluralist nations, governed with the consent of their own people--the commitment of this Nation that those nations will not by force of arms or intervention have their forms of government changed or altered will be enhanced.
Taiwan, today, is the cornerstone of that American commitment. Tomorrow, it could be Africa or Latin America. How we stand now on the eve of these free elections in Taiwan will most assuredly constitute a powerful message in all other places where others would challenge these new and fledgling democracies.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Connecticut is recognized.

 
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