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U.S. scholars urge Taiwan to consider implications of U.S. travel act

2018/03/02 15:47:29

Washington, March 1 (CNA) U.S. scholars warned Taiwan Thursday to think about the implications of the U.S. Taiwan Travel Act, especially what it will mean for relations across the Taiwan Strait, and assess whether the country can stand up to the pressure that will come from China as a result.

The Taiwan Travel Act, which was passed by the U.S. Senate the day before, was a topic during a panel discussion hosted by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) titled "Japanese Views on China and Taiwan: Implications for the U.S.-Japan Alliance."

Moderator Michael Green, who serves as the CSIS senior vice president for the Asia and Japan chair, called into question the usefulness of the act, which will allow high-level officials from the U.S. and Taiwan to travel to each other's countries.

Green said that for Taiwan, it is more important to have a "very closely aligned U.S.-Japan alliance on cross-strait issues" than "a slight upgrade in U.S. visits or access."

While both options would represent upgrades in Taiwan-U.S. relations, Green noted that the former -- a solid alliance between the U.S. and Japan on issues related to cross-strait relations -- is a "far more important deterrent and shaper of Chinese policies."

He went on to call the Taiwan Travel Act only a symbolic change in Taiwan-U.S. relations.

Green also pointed out that China will react to the passing of the act by going after Taiwan, not the U.S., so the Taiwan government needs to be sure that "it really wants this."

Bonnie Glaser, CSIS senior adviser for Asia and director of the China Power Project, acknowledged that the act "encourages" visits to take place between high-level officials between Taiwan and the U.S., but is not binding.

Nonetheless, Glaser expressed confidence that the Taiwan Travel Act, if signed into law, will see a loosening of such restrictions, and is more likely to be implemented than clauses in the National Defense Authorization Act that allows, but does not order, the re-establishment of regular port calls to Taiwan by the U.S. Navy and Taiwan's participation in joint military drills.

On the language used in the Taiwan Travel Act, Su Chi (蘇起), a former secretary-general of Taiwan's National Security Council (NSC), said during a Friday radio interview that there are limits to what has been dubbed a breakthrough in Taiwan-U.S. relations as reflected in the act itself.

The act uses the word "should" in relation to how the U.S. should execute it, so the U.S. government has no obligation to actually enforce it, Su said.

Furthermore, there is no mention of Taiwanese officials visiting Washington, D.C., which has long been prohibited for Taiwanese presidents, although they have in recent years been able to make transit stops in other places in the U.S., he noted.

(By Rita Cheng and Kuan-lin Liu)