WASHINGTON (CNA) — A proposal by United States senators to invite Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), to address a joint meeting of Congress is flawed because it would not be conducive to U.S. relations with China and would hurt Taiwan, former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman Richard Bush said.
“The first flaw in the proposal is that it is contrary to a fundamental principle of U.S. relations with China,” Bush, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and director of its Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, wrote in an article posted on Feb. 10 on the institution’s website.
When the U.S. established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in 1979, it pledged that it would carry out substantive relations with Taiwan and its government on an unofficial basis, Bush wrote.
“If the president of Taiwan were to speak to a joint meeting of Congress, any U.S. claim that its relations with Taiwan were unofficial would ring completely hollow,” he wrote, adding that “although I cannot predict exactly what Beijing would do in response, a radical downgrading of the relationship would be likely.”
“American multinationals that rely on China as a market or production platform would be vulnerable to retaliation, with attendant effects on jobs and profits,” Bush warned.
The second flaw is Taiwan would suffer, Bush noted, stating that although the initiative began in the United States, Beijing would take the opportunity to pressure and squeeze Taiwan even more than it is already doing.
“It would likely find ways to get the small number of countries that still maintain diplomatic relations with Taipei to switch to the PRC,” Bush wrote.
In addition, Taiwan-directed exercises by China’s People’s Liberation Army would intensify and China’s efforts to interfere in Taiwan’s domestic politics would increase. “So, a gesture that senators intended to help Taiwan would only hurt it,” Bush wrote.
The third flaw in the initiative is its disregard for Taiwan’s view. President Tsai is responsible for the prosperity and safety of 23 million people. She understands that she must maintain some degree of balance between relations with the United States and relations with China, according to Bush.
“Clearly, relations with China are not as good as she might like them to be, but I believe she would not wish to risk a further, serious deterioration in relations with Beijing unless it brought an extraordinary benefit,” Bush wrote.
He suggested the U.S. should continue to find ways to improve relations with Taiwan, for example by improving the economic relationship and helping Taiwan effectively enhance its deterrence against China.
A group of U.S. senators on Thursday jointly wrote a letter to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling on her to invite Tsai to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Cory Gardner, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, John Cornyn, and Ted Cruz.
In response, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) expressed gratitude but stressed that there is no plan for President Tsai to visit Washington.
In the article, Bush also said Speaker Pelosi should reject the proposal.
In 1943, former first lady Soong Mei-ling (宋美齡), also known as Madame Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), became the first and only ROC citizen to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
By Rita Cheng and Evelyn Kao