WASHINGTON — Eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives have written to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling for the removal of language unfriendly towards Taiwan in the State Department’s directives for its overseas agencies.
The congressional members were referring to messages delivered on an annual basis to U.S. embassies abroad in which the department repeats its long-standing guidelines on U.S. relations with Taiwan.
Distributed as a routine message delivered every September — one month before Taiwan’s Double Ten National Day — the guidelines dictate various principles for dealing with Taiwan, including forbidding U.S. officials from attending National Day receptions and from referring to Taiwan as the Republic of China, its official name.
While the messages are very similar every year, the congressmen said in the letter dated Sept. 28 that they have noted that the State Department added some political rhetoric harmful to Taiwan’s democracy in its messages for 2007 and 2008.
This rhetoric includes a reiteration of the United States’ “one China policy, “ a statement that Taiwan is not a “sovereign independent country, “ a section detailing that “the United States does not support Taiwan’s membership in international organizations that “require statehood” and a part about the United States not allowing the flag of Taiwan to fly on U.S. government premises, according to the congressmen.
The congressional members said they find it unacceptable that the State Department is turning what should be a technical note into a specific policy and demanded a clear explanation from Rice on the decision.
They urged the State Department to remove the new language and restore the original version used prior to 2007. The letter was signed by Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Dan Burton (R-Ind.), Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.), Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.) and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.).
The State Department has outlined various restrictions for dealing with Taiwan since Washington switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.
The restrictions include that meetings between U.S. and Taiwanese officials must not take place in State Department buildings, the White House or the Old Executive Office Building; and that executive branch personnel are not permitted to attend functions held at the Washington residence of Taiwan’s representative to the United States.
Regarding official references to Taiwan, U.S. executive branch officials are not permitted to refer to Taiwan’s government as a “government.” Instead, the term “Taiwan authorities” must be used. The guidelines also restrict executive branch personnel from referring to the people of Taiwan as “Taiwanese” but require them instead to refer to the population as the “people on Taiwan.”