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Taiwan Travel Act passes first stage of legislation in U.S.

2017/06/16 11:37:57

Washington, June 15 (CNA) A bill to encourage visits between the United States and Taiwan at all levels was passed unanimously by a U.S. House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Thursday in the first step toward its legislation.

The Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific passed the Taiwan Travel Act (H.R. 535), which was initiated by Rep. Steve Chabot and co-sponsored by Representatives Brad Sherman and Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"The United States government should encourage visits between the United States and Taiwan at all levels," the bill states.

It says that since the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979, ties between the United States and Taiwan have suffered from insufficient high-level communication due to the self-imposed restrictions that the United States maintains on visits by high ranking officials to Taiwan. The bill, which seeks to eliminate such restrictions, will now be sent to the House Foreign Affairs Committee for approval.

A similar bill with the same title has also been introduced in the U.S. Senate. It was initiated by Republican Senators Marco Rubio, Jim Inhofe, and Cory Gardner, and Democratic Senators Sherrod Brown, Bob Menendez and Gary Peters.

Before the Taiwan Travel Act can become law, it must be passed by both the House and the Senate and signed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Peter Chen (陳正義), president of the U.S.-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs, said in a news release that the U.S. allows China's authoritarian leaders to visit Washington at any time and gives them a red carpet welcome, but has shunned democratically elected leaders from its long-term ally Taiwan.

Only Washington, not Beijing, has the right to decide who could visit the United States, Chen said. With relatively new governments now in office in Taiwan and the U.S., it is an opportune time to change the rules on visits by Taiwan officials, he said.

(By Rita Cheng and Lilian Wu)