The PJ Tatler

Congress Members in Taiwan to Show Support for Arms Sales, Irk China

Just after the diplomatic row between China and the U.S. over the fate of human-rights activist Chen Guangcheng — now safely in America, as of this weekend — a group of Congress members flew to Taiwan for the inauguration of President Ma Ying-jeou in his second term.

The delegation is pledging to do its part to see that Taiwan continues to get arms sales from the U.S., regardless of whether it rankles Beijing. The House passed an amendment last week ordering President Obama to sell at least 66 F-16 C/D fighters to Taiwan.

“For decades, the U.S. and Taiwan have forged a strong partnership, and we cooperate closely in economics, foreign policy, and especially security matters,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said from Taipei on Sunday. “We are here to discuss the rise of China, how to advance our bilateral trade, and how best to preserve Taiwan as a beacon of democracy.”

Xinhua led this morning with a story about Beijing opposition to the lawmakers’ push. “To push for weapons sales to Taiwan severely violates the one-China policy and the three joint communiques between China and the United States, which severely interferes with China’s internal affairs,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, who urged “some U.S. lawmakers” to get rid of their Cold War mentality.

The delegation includes Reps. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), Thad McCotter (R-Mich.), Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), Brad Miller (D-N.C.) and Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio).

In addition to meeting with President Ma, Vice President Wu, and Premier Chen, the delegation will meet with Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan, Senior Democratic Progressive Party Member and former Presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy C.T. Yang, Deputy Minister of National Defense Yang Nien-tsu, Deputy Minister of Economic Affairs Lin Sheng-chung, and President of the Legislative Yuan Wang Jin-pyng.  The delegation will also meet with representatives from the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei.

“An old proverb about Taiwan states that ‘A good friend shields you from the storm,’” Ros-Lehtinen said. “We, from the United States Congress, are here to assure you that America is such a friend.”

On Wednesday, the delegation will travel to South Korea for meetings with President Lee Myung-bak and other senior officials.

The House amendment on arms sales was based on the Senate version by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).

“This bill sends a message to nations around the world that America will not abandon our friends or our principles in the face of Chinese intimidation,” Cornyn said.

The White House has threatened to veto the House defense authorization bill, citing numerous issues including missile defense, limits on funding Pakistan, limits on nuclear force reductions, and handling detainees.