Inviting Tsai to U.S. a mistake: ex-U.S. foreign affairs official

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In this Oct. 10, 2016 file photo, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech during National Day celebrations in front of the Presidential Building in Taipei, Taiwan. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File)

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 would be a “huge mistake,” former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Susan Shirk said on Feb. 12.

Shirk, a research professor and chair from the 21st Century China Center at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, said that as with the visit of former President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to his alma mater Cornell University in 1995, the proposal to invite Tsai to the U.S. would be wrong.

“I don’t support it. I think that was a mistake then and that it would be a mistake now,” Shirk told CNA after a press conference held by the Asia Society, a New York-headquartered think tank that tackles major policy challenges confronting the Asia-Pacific.

Shirk said based on the unofficial U.S.-Taiwan relationship, the United States allows transit by senior Taiwan officials to America, but visits are not allowed.

Asked whether she is concerned at the prospect of an unexpected move by U.S. President Donald Trump, such as inviting Taiwan’s president to the U.S., Shirk said it would be highly irresponsible for Trump to use Taiwan as leverage in dealing with China.

She characterized Trump as “quite ignorant of the history and what it takes to maintain stability on this very sensitive issue.” Meanwhile, Cory Gardner, one of the U.S. senators who proposed Tsai’s visit, met with a delegation led by former ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the United States Zhou Wenzhong (周文重) on Tuesday.

According to Gardener’s statement following the meeting, he reiterated that Beijing’s hostile actions toward Taipei are counterproductive and the U.S. Congress will continue to advocate on behalf of Taiwan and the Taiwanese people, as guided by U.S. law, including the Taiwan Relations Act, Taiwan Travel Act, and Asia Reassurance Initiative Act.

Gardner said his call for Tsai’s visit to the U.S. is consistent with U.S. law, adding that he hopes such an invitation will be issued in the near future.

On Feb. 8, a group of U.S. senators, including Cory Gardner, Marco Rubio, Tom Cotton, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, sent a joint letter to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, urging her to invite Taiwan’s president to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) expressed gratitude for the letter on Feb. 8 but said Tsai currently has no plans to visit Washington D.C.

Rita Cheng and Chi Jo-yao