Yesterday the Taipei Times reported that the Formosa Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), the premier advocacy group for Taiwan in the US, had slammed Steve Young of the officially unofficial US representative body, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), for his attacks on the UN referendum. Gerrit van Der Wees passed around the text of the letter and press release:

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For Immediate Release
Contact Iris Ho @ 202.547.3686
November 15, 2007
FAPA expresses strong disagreement with AIT Director Steve Young;Says that US statements are undermining Taiwan’s democracy.

On Wednesday, November 14th 2007, the Formosan Association for Public Affairs — a Taiwanese-American grassroots organization based in Washington DC — sent a letter to the Director of the American Institute in Taiwan, Mr. Stephen Young — expressing strong disagreement with statements he made, criticizing the planned Taiwan referendum on entry in the UN under the name “Taiwan”.

In a press conference in Taipei on November 9th 2007, Mr. Young reportedly stated that the referendum, planned to coincide with the presidential elections in March 2008, are “neither necessary nor helpful”and that “there is a price to be paid in mutual trust.”

The Association said that the referendum is necessary for
three reasons:

1) in order to let the international community know that the Taiwanese people have no intention of letting themselves be subdued by an authoritarian regime in Beijing;
2) to let the world know that the Taiwanese people want their country to be a full and equal member in the international community, and
3) to counter the PRC’s relentless pressure to isolate Taiwan and push it into a corner.

In response to Mr. Young’s statement that there is a price to be paid in mutual trust, the Association stated that the price to be paid is “…the fact that US opposition to the referendum is severely undermining international trust in the US government’s resolve to stand up for human rights and democracy in the world.”

The Association added: “Your statements, and those of other US government officials, are also undermining democracy in our homeland. We find this totally unacceptable.”

The Association closed its letter, which was signed by its President C.T. Lee MD, by saying that if the United States is serious about spreading democracy around the world, “…it needs to be supportive of and nurture those countries that have attained democracy through the hard work of their citizens. Taiwan is such a country, and if the US wants to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, it needs to show resolve in support of our young and fragile democracy.”

The full text of the letter is given below.

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Washington DC, November 14th 2007
Mr. Stephen Young
Director, American Institute in Taiwan
7 Lane 134, Hsin Yi Rd. Sec 3
TAIPEI, TAIWAN 106

Dear Mr. Young,

As an organization of American citizens of Taiwanese descent we want to express our strong disagreement with your statements last week about the planned referendum in Taiwan regarding membership in the United Nations. You said that the referendum is “neither necessary nor helpful” and that you think “there is a price to be paid in mutual trust.”

Yes, there is a price to be paid, but this price is the fact that US opposition to the referendum is severely undermining international trust in the US government’s resolve to stand up for human rights and democracy in the world. Your statements, and those of other US government officials, are also undermining democracy in our homeland. We find this totally unacceptable.

The referendum is necessary in order to let the international community know that the Taiwanese people have no intention of letting themselves be subdued by an authoritarian regime in Beijing. The referendum is necessary to let the world know that the Taiwanese people want their country to be a full and equal member in the international community. The referendum is necessary to counter the PRC’s relentless pressure to isolate Taiwan and push it into a corner.

It should be clear to you and your colleagues that Taiwan is not threatening China in any way: the Taiwan government has emphasized time and again that it wants the country to live in peace with all its neighbors, including China. However, as you well know, China is building up its armed forces with the specific aim of attacking Taiwan, and is threatening Taiwan with 980+ missiles.

If the United States is serious about spreading democracy around the world, it needs to be supportive of and nurture those countries that have attained democracy through the hard work of their citizens. Taiwan is such a country, and if the US wants to maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, it needs to show resolve in support of our young and fragile democracy. Looking forward to hearing from you,

C.T. Lee MD
President, Formosan Association for Public Affairs
cc.
President George W. Bush
Secretary Condoleezza Rice

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As I noted earlier, Young’s remarks were comparatively mild — he didn’t accuse Taiwan of undermining the status quo, merely saying that it was unnecessary. The US claim, that Taiwan is damaging mutual trust, omits any mention of the role of the US side in undermining that trust. AIT’s position places the onus on Taiwan. That sucks. Until the Bush Administration removes its restrictions on high-level visits to Taiwan, especially military contacts, the US will be in the position of undermining US-Taiwan relations.

Germane to this is the Administration’s mad refusal to sell F-16s to Taiwan. The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission recently reported to Congress. While it did not make its criticisms clear in the report, privately commission members were unhappy with the Bush Administration’s position on the F-16s.

The Bush administration must base its decisions on arms sales on security interests, not politics, leaders of a prestigious commission dealing with US-China relations said on Thursday, in what appeared to be a criticism of the administration’s refusal to sell advanced F-16 fighter aircraft to Taiwan.

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, in an annual report to Congress, recommended that Congress urge the administration to continue to sell Taipei weapons it needs to counter an attack by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

But the report stopped short of specifically urging the sale of the F-16s.

The chairman and vice chairman of the commission, answering press queries, said the failure to deal with the aircraft issue stemmed from timing and other issues and was not a result of a policy decision.

Vice Chairman Dan Blumenthal, a former senior Pentagon official dealing with China affairs, said: “We did not have enough time to deliberate on it. We discussed Taiwan earlier and the F16 issue was moving faster than we had a chance to catch up with.”

However, he indicated that the commission favors the F-16 sale, and was not happy with the administration’s decision to block it.

The Bush Administration has also attempted to suppress Taiwan’s development of missiles capable of striking China, though it has done little about missiles from China capable of striking Taiwan. Of course, if the Bush Administration were running Taiwan, they’d be developing missiles capable of hitting China too, and probably nukes as well.

The US made this bed and now it is going to have to find a way to lie in it. It pushed Taiwan to democratize — and the consequences of that move were known to both ROC and US leaders back in the 1960s. Further, as an academic recently pointed out to me in a private email, when Kissinger and Breziniski sold out Taiwan, they made Taiwan independence inevitable. Previous to Kissinger, the US position had openly been that the status of Taiwan was undecided, a position it still quietly holds today (as the recent UN flap demonstrated). But Kissinger essentially sold Taiwan to China, giving the island only two choices: being annexed to the PRC, or becoming independent. It’s not entirely a coincidence that the democracy movement here became an independence movement with a big influx of Taiwanese after the US restored links with China under Kissinger.

It is apparent that Bush Administration simply has no idea how to deal with Taiwan and even less of a clue about how to deal with Taiwan as a full-blown formal nation-state in the world community. It’s sad that Kissinger sacrificed US strategic flexibility — yet another RealPolitik fuckup — but that flexibility is latent in the US position, and needs to be reclaimed.