Bipartisan US promises please Taipei

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 September, 2012, 4:06am

The Taiwanese government of President Ma Ying-jeou was happy to hear it could continue relying on bipartisan support from the United States regardless of which candidate wins its presidential election in November.

That was the message from Taipei after US President Barack Obama said during his nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention that there would be no change of policy towards Taipei with a Democrat staying in the White House.

Meanwhile Obama's Republican rival Mitt Romney reiterated that the US would protect its ally Taiwan in the event of attack by the mainland.

The last paragraph of the Democrats' platform on Asia-Pacific policy reconfirmed their commitment to the "one-China policy, the Taiwan Relations Act and peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues that is consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan". That sentence reiterates the Democratic Party's position on Taiwan stated four years ago.

As such, US-Taiwan relations would remain more or less the same for the next four years if Obama were re-elected, analysts said.

"The Democratic Party's mention of Taiwan was a bit low-key compared with that of the Republicans, but given that it is the ruling party, the Democrats are unlikely to adopt anything that goes beyond existing policies," said Dr Yen Chen-shen, research fellow of the Institute of International Relations at National Chengchi University in Taipei.

The Republicans have traditionally shown stronger support for Taiwan than for the mainland, Yen said, and being the opposition party, "their references of support will be much stronger".

In its platform released on August 28, the Republican Party said it would oppose any change in the status quo across the Taiwan Strait and "if China were to violate those principles, the US, in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, would help Taiwan defend itself".

Noting that Taiwan is a loyal friend of Washington, the Republican platform stressed: "Taiwan has merited our strong support, including free-trade-agreement status, as well as the timely sale of defensive arms and full participation in the World Health Organisation, International Civil Aviation Organisation, and other multilateral institutions."

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry immediately responded with of a message of gratitude for the Republicans' staunch support of the island.

On Wednesday, the ministry also praised the Democrats for upholding their commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act and support for a peaceful resolution to cross-strait issues that is "consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan".

The Taiwan Relations Act, which obliges the US to help Taiwan defend itself, was enacted in 1979 when Washington switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei.