20.03.2018 Author: Vladimir Terehov

US Senate has Unanimously Adopted the Taiwan Travel Act


In early February US Senate unanimously adopted the H.R.535-Taiwan Travel Act (TTA), without any omissions or reservations, which was approved a month earlier by the House of Representatives in a similar fashion. The unanimity shown by the Congress has predetermined the decision of Donald Trump to sign the act into a law, which occurred on March 16.

A few days after adoption the act by the US House of Representatives, NEO would examine its main provisions, along with the way that this act is going to affect bilateral relations between the two leading world powers.

As for conclusions, it was pointed out that the consequences of TTA adoption will have grave consequences for the political situation around the globe, but there was still a chance that the US Senate could block the initiative, which didn’t come to fruition.

One can remember an article released by the Pacific Forum, a branch of the leading American think tank in the field of military strategic evaluations – the CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) that was penned by Dennis Hickey, a professor of the Missouri State University under the tittle: “Taiwan Travel Act: Bad Idea?”

Despite the fact that the author was not inclined to dramatize the situation in connection with the act that was yet to be discussed in the Senate, he advised lawmakers to block the act because of its clearly provocative nature.

It’s too bad that political insanity has recently been epidemic in the world politics, while reaching its heights on the Capitol Hill. For those who occupy it the prospect of resolving extremely difficult and dangerous issues in discussions with their geopolitical opponents lately hasn’t been an option at all. Especially those issues that cannot be properly described in the language of the existing international law that at times can be extremely deceiving.

It is enough to see how much panic the resumption of the inter-Korean dialogue has provoked in Washington, since the Korean crisis has already left the formal framework of UN Security Council resolutions in the field of nuclear nonproliferation and Pyongyang’s violations of those resolutions.

The recent adoption of the TTA will mark a remarkable increase in tensions between the US and China over the issue of Taiwan, that occupies center stage in the ongoing face-off between the two leading world powers. This confrontation can be observed anywhere from the Korean peninsula to the South China Sea in the immediate vicinity of China’s shores but some 6-8 thousand miles off the coast of the US.

The TTA is not just about changing the form of contacts between US and Taiwanese officials, that didn’t exist formally prior to the adoption of the controversial act, it’s a game changer in the global political game. By the way, those unofficial contacts that Washington enjoyed with Taipei were violating the spirit of one of the three conditions that Beijing put forward before establishing diplomatic relations with the United States back in the 1970s. This condition was the disruption of diplomatic relations between Washington and Taipei, implying the termination of contacts between official representatives of the two parties.

Now with the adoption of the TTA there would be no need to keep negotiations held between the representatives of the United States and Taiwan a secret. It’s curious that all official contacts must have with certain results that are to be formally reported on the websites of the agencies involved, containing names and positions of the negotiators. At the end of the day, foreign trips of official figures are being payed with taxpayers’ money who have the right to know where their hard-earned pay goes.

Thus, the process of “normalization” of Taiwan’s foreign policy status is now triggered that is going to be supported by Washington’s allies sooner or later. In principle, this process can result in the recognition of Taiwan as an independent state, that is, making it a subject of the international law.

But the situation is going to be shaped by the state of relations between the two geopolitical titans, yet there’s little room for optimism left against the backdrop of the bitter economic and political rivalry between the US and China, while both players have been able to evade direct confrontation so far. And, of course, the TTA opens new tool for Washington to influence Beijing’s policies.

However, one should not downplay he extreme danger of Washington’s approach to the problem of Taiwan. For, unlike Korea, Taiwan is viewed in Beijing as an “inalienable” part of its territory.

It is very likely that among the first components of the official relations between the US and Taiwan will be the establishment of military ties. This can not be avoided, as there’s a section in the Pentagon’s budget for 2018 that implies there’s going to be military cooperation between Washington and Taipei. This section identifies a variety of areas of US-Taiwan military cooperation, including the “resumption” of joint exercises.

Curiously enough, these steps will be a direct violation of the second condition put forward by Beijing in the late 1970s, which demanded the withdrawal of all American troops from Taiwan.

The assessment of the whole of what is happening in the United States around the TTA in China, as always, can be glimpsed from a cartoon picture presented by the Global Times. In the picture, someone curious (with the American flag on the sleeve of his jacket) is pocking a hornet’s nest with a stick. Washington clearly resembles a young boy who has just found a box of matches and is trying to have fun with them.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

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