Media outlets are reporting the introduction of a resolution backed by 19 US legislators to support Taiwan into the UN (Taipei Times).

No date has been fixed for debate on the bill in the US legislature.

“It’s unclear when it will come before the committee, we have no mark-ups scheduled for the next month,” said Lynne Weil, spokeswoman for House foreign affairs committee chairman Tom Lantos.

Chen’s Democratic Progressive Party is pushing for the controversial vote to be held alongside the presidential elections on March 22, 2008.

But on Friday the de facto US envoy to Taiwan, Stephen Young, said a referendum was “not necessary” or “helpful” and called on Taiwan to adopt a “careful and moderate approach” in relations with China.

“I have regular dialogues with President Chen and the other players in Taiwan on the political side,” Young, director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), told reporters.

“I think it is clear to say neither President Chen nor anybody else here in Taiwan should be confused by the effective opposition to the referendum and the reasons.”

US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said in August Washington opposed any such referendum because it would be a step to declaring full independence.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas J. Christensen also recently urged the leadership in Taipei to “anticipate potential Chinese red lines and reactions and avoid unnecessary and unproductive provocations.”

Local Taiwan newspapers have reported that Washington has decided to postpone the sale of dozens of F-16 C/D fighters to Taipei in an effort to show its displeasure.

The resolution was introduced by Scott Garret (R) of New Jersey. It’s just a resolution, and is essentially meaningless, as the Bush Administration has already shown time and again that it cares not what Congress does. It’s always nice to show support, though.

Tom Christensen, the State Department official mentioned in the article above, was recently identified in a private emailing from someone in the know as extremely knowledgeable on US-China relations but a strong supporter of the refusal to sell Taiwan F-16s, and of the US attacks on Taiwan’s referendum plan. Christensen apparently believes that Taiwan should not “provoke” China. Since China determines whether it has been provoked, positions like Christensen’s simply make US policy hostage to Chinese initiative. Worse still, they invite war since they makes the US look indifferent to Taiwan’s fate, and weak and easily manipulated.

MEDIA NOTES: The AFP article offers a good example of how pro-China biases are introduced into news articles through the use of routine formulations that are either slanted (”China considers Taiwan part of its territory” but what does Taiwan think?) or erroneous (”China and Taiwan split in 1949″), as well as with loaded languages and telling omissions. Note the opening frame of the story:

Nineteen US lawmakers, nearly all of them from President George W. Bush’s Republican party, have introduced a bill in the House of Representatives backing UN membership for Taiwan, a move that could anger China.

Imagine this opening frame:

Nineteen US lawmakers, nearly all of them from President George W. Bush’s Republican party, have introduced a bill in the House of Representatives backing UN membership for Taiwan, a move that shows support for Taiwan’s vibrant democracy.

The idea of democracy is never referred to in the article, except indirectly in the mention of elections. Instead, the referendum is framed negatively throughout the entire article, using loaded language:

The Bush administration has tried to discourage Chen’s effort, which has has touched a raw nerve with China, which considers it a provocative step towards independence.

Do nations have raw nerves?

Taiwan, under its official name the Republic of China, lost its UN seat to China in 1971. Its efforts to rejoin using its official title have been repeatedly blocked by Beijing, which sees the island as part of its territory.

No mention of Taiwan’s position on the issue, of course. This is followed by more negative framing:

During a recent Asia-Pacific summit in Sydney, Chinese President Hu Jintao told Bush that Taiwan’s referendum plan had propelled the cross-strait situation into a “possibly dangerous period.”

The President of China is cited, but nothing contextualizes this. Chinese military and political threats to Taiwan are not mentioned, and Hu is treated as if he were not a man who had killed to get and maintain his power. There is no reason that the AFP report could not have included this passage in the resolution reported in the Taipei Times….

“Taiwan has dramatically improved its record on human rights and routinely holds fair and free elections in a multiparty system, as evidenced by Taiwan’s second [sic] democratic presidential election in 2000 and 2004, in which Mr Chen Shui-bian [陳水扁] was elected as President,” the resolution said.

…except that it would have spoiled the effectiveness of all that negative language about the horrible referendum, of course, especially in contrast to the regime run by Hu Jintao.