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U.S. Taiwan Travel Act has symbolic meaning for Taiwan, China: experts

2018/03/17 17:08:24

Taipei, March 17 (CNA) Experts Saturday described U.S. President Donald Trump's signing of the Taiwan Travel Act as symbolically meaningful, as it conveys a message of support to Taiwan.

Trump signed the bill, which encourages visits between government officials of the United States and Taiwan at all levels, a day earlier, despite strong opposition from China.

According to Peter Su (蘇紫雲), executive officer of the Center for Advanced Technology at Tamkang University, the signing of the bill into law signifies U.S. support for Taiwanese democracy, a message that comes at a time when Taiwan is facing a lot of pressure from China.

At the same time, it breaks away from a self-imposed longstanding practice that the U.S. avoids high-level officials from the U.S. and Taiwan visiting each other's countries.

In doing so, the U.S. is letting China know that its approach to its relationship with Taiwan and China may be "completely different" from how it was in the past, according to Su.

While the previous administrations since Bill Clinton were more flexible and harmonious in dealing with China, the current administration has shown that in the areas of trade and regional security, it is adopting a tougher approach, he continued.

For instance, Trump initiated an investigation into China's alleged violation of intellectual property rights and technology transfers in August 2017, and could impose sanctions if the allegations are proven to be true.

Lawmakers in Taiwan have said in the days since the U.S. Congress passed the act that it could be used as another card for the U.S. in its negotiations with China.

This view is echoed in an analysis by Sean King, senior vice president at U.S. consultancy and lobbyist firm Park Strategies.

According to King, Trump is "frustrated with Beijing on North Korea and trade, while also increasingly alarmed by its moves in the South China Sea, the East China Sea and elsewhere,"

"So, signing this act into law can rattle Beijing a bit," while showing Taiwan that the U.S. values it, King said.

He bases his analysis on the fact that Trump actually signed the bill instead of simply letting it pass into law without a veto, which King said shows real intent on Trump's part, that "he wants somebody to know something."

While Su does not address how the U.S. could leverage the act when dealing with China, he called the signing of the bill an edit to the Three Communiques, which make it clear that Taiwan and the U.S. are not to develop any official relationship.

Although Trump already had the power to make such high-level official exchanges occur if he wanted to, the Taiwan Travel Act, albeit not legally binding, puts the idea into writing, which explains China's resolute opposition.

A spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Washington expressed Beijing's strong dissatisfaction with Trump's action, saying that "the relevant clauses of the Taiwan Travel Act severely violate the one-China principle," according to a Saturday report from China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

The spokesperson went on to urge the U.S. to "stop pursuing any official ties with Taiwan or improving its current relations with Taiwan in any substantive way."

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), Taiwan's top agency in charge of China policy, urged Beijing to respond rationally to the passing of the act, instead of continuing its recent suppression of Taiwan, which it said is not productive to peaceful interaction across the strait.

Increased international cooperation and exchanges are a natural extension of the international community's approval of Taiwan's democracy, the MAC said, asking Beijing to respect the country's dignity and right to international participation and relations.

(By Kuan-lin Liu, Yeh Su-ping and Zhai Su-cha)