The Senate Foreign Relations Committee
On S. 693
The Taiwan Security Enhancement Act
By Stanley O. Roth
Assistant Secretary of State
For East Asian and Pacific Affairs
August 4, 1999
It is a pleasure to appear before the Committee today, Mr. Chairman,
in response to your request for Administration views concerning S.
693, "The Taiwan Security Enhancement Act." I welcome the opportunity
to respond to you on that subject, but I would like to do so in the
context of providing you the Administration's assessment of current
When I appeared before this Committee on March 25, I found some cause
for optimism about dialogue between Taiwan and the PRC. In October of
1998, Koo Chen-fu, Chairman of Taiwan's Straits Exchange Foundation
(SEF) and Taiwan's senior unofficial representative in talks with the
PRC, traveled to Shanghai, where he was welcomed by his counterpart,
Wang Daohan, the chairman of the PRC Association for Relations Across
the Taiwan Strait (ARATS). He then went to Beijing where he stayed in
an official state guesthouse, and met with President Jiang Zemin. Koo
and Wang agreed to further dialogue on political, economic and other
issues, and Wang agreed to make a return visit to Taiwan.
The U.S. had strongly encouraged both sides to engage in such a direct
dialogue. We welcomed the prospect that the dialogue would continue
and hoped that Wang's visit to Taiwan might establish a more solid
basis on which to continue the dialogue. Such a dialogue is the basis
for Taiwan's lasting security, which military hardware alone cannot
In the context of that positive momentum, we had in recent months
suggested that both sides look at the possibility of "interim
agreements" as one way to move forward in their dialogue. We offered
no preconceived formula about what the substance of interim agreements
might be, only that they might serve as a way for both sides to build
confidence in their ability to work together, setting the stage for
increased cooperation and enhanced regional stability. We did not
offer this suggestion to put pressure on either side, only as an idea
that might prove useful to both.
Unfortunately, the positive momentum which existed earlier this year
has deteriorated sharply. On July 9, Taiwan's President Lee Teng-hui
told Voice of Germany radio that "we have designated cross-strait ties
as state-to-state or at least as special state-to-state ties." On July
12, Su Chi, the Chairman of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council, said
that the PRC's formulation of the "one China" principle was not a
basis for cross-strait discussions.
Beijing stated that Lee's statements threatened the idea of "one
China" that was the basis for relations across the Taiwan Strait and
"was a very dangerous step along the way to splitting the country."
Beijing repeated its long held position that it reserved the right to
use force if Taiwan moved toward independence. Wang Daohan suggested
that Lee's statement undermined the basis for him to travel to Taiwan
this fall to continue the dialogue between the two sides, and he
called for a clarification from SEF'S Koo Chen-fu.
On July 30 Koo Chen-fu sent a statement to Wang Daohan to clarify
Lee's statement. Although he stated that there had been no change in
Taiwan's policies favoring cross-strait dialogue, agreements between
the two sides, and the goal of a unified China, Koo also held to Lee's
position on "special state-to-state relations." Koo said Taiwan
considers that "'one China' is something for the future since China at
present is divided and ruled separately by two equal sovereign states
in existence at the same time."
After Koo sent his statement of clarification, ARATS immediately
rejected it and said that it "seriously violated" the 1992 SEF-ARATS
From the very beginning, the United States responded to this
disruption of cross-straits relations with consistent public and
private statements in an effort to calm tensions and encourage a
peaceful resolution of this dispute. On July 12, the State Department
spokesman reiterated the U.S. commitment to its "one China" policy.
The spokesman also stressed that, in accordance with the Taiwan
Relations Act, we would view with grave concern any attempt to
determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means.
The President, first in a telephone call to PRC President Jiang Zemin,
and later in a White House press conference, spelled out the three
pillars of our position toward relations between Taiwan and the PRC:
-- Our "one China" policy is unchanged;
-- We support dialogue as the only way for differences between the two
sides to be resolved; and
-- We have an abiding interest that there be a peaceful approach by
both sides to resolving differences.
Following the Clinton-Jiang call, the Administration continued its
diplomatic efforts to restore calm in cross-strait relations. This
included dispatching parallel missions to Beijing and Taipei. NSC
Senior Director for East Asia, Ken Lieberthal, and I traveled to
Beijing while the Chairman of The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT),
Richard Bush, traveled to Taipei. Both missions had the same
objectives: to listen to senior leaders; and to make sure that they
understood the United States's firm adherence to its long-standing
policies: "one China" and our insistence on peaceful resolution of
As a second step, the Secretary met with PRC Foreign Minister Tang
Jiaxuan in Singapore July 25, on the eve of the meeting of the ASEAN
Regional Forum (ARF), to make clear our commitment to a one-China
policy, a peaceful approach and cross-strait dialogue. Secretary
Albright pressed Beijing to continue the cross-strait dialogue and
urged them not to use force.
Where does this leave the cross-strait situation today? It is
impossible to be certain. There is no sign of imminent hostilities. It
appears that PRC military activity is somewhat elevated, but reports
in the media have been exaggerated. Nonetheless, the risk of
escalation remains. The visit of Wang Daohan to Taiwan has not been
officially cancelled, but the situation is serious, and we have urged
that the visit proceed. In this period of uncertainty, all the key
players will need to navigate with care. Comments on "The Taiwan
Security Enhancement Act"
Having set the context for our consideration of "The Taiwan Security
Enhancement Act," I would like first to offer a personal observation.
Everyone who knows you, Mr. Chairman, knows beyond the slightest doubt
that your overwhelming interest in offering this legislation is to
strengthen Taiwan's security.
Nonetheless, Mr. Chairman -- and I say this with all due respect --
the Administration believes that this legislation could have serious,
unintended negative consequences that would weaken Taiwan's security
and impinge on our own security interests in the region. These
consequences arise because this legislation will be interpreted by
Taiwan and by the PRC as a significant revision of the Taiwan
Relations Act, which has successfully governed the U.S. role in
cross-strait issues for twenty years. It will be seen as an effort to
reverse our commitment to an unofficial relationship and to recreate
in its place a formal military relationship with Taiwan.
Several provisions of this bill lead to this perception. For example,
the legislation mandates operational communication links between
military headquarters of Taiwan and the U.S. in Hawaii, a linkage more
indicative of formal military ties than an unofficial relationship.
This perception would be further enforced by the Act's requirement
that the Secretary of Defense permit the travel of flag-rank officers
to Taiwan. Avoiding such senior military travel has helped this and
previous administrations of both parties to have successful
working-level contacts while avoiding the cloak of officiality that
would be a hindrance to effective exchange.
Equally troubling is the specific authorization (in section 5(d) and
(e)) that the U.S. provide ballistic missile defense and early warning
radar to Taiwan. As you know from my previous testimony, Mr. Chairman,
the Administration, as a matter of policy, does not preclude the
possible sale of TMD systems to Taiwan in the future. But, making this
determination now, when the systems are still under development, and
not yet even available to U.S. forces, is certainly premature. By
their nature, providing these systems to Taiwan would be a decision
with significant implications for Taiwan's security, for regional
security, and for the security of the United States. That decision
will need to be made based on a determination of Taiwan's defensive
needs and in the context of regional developments at some point in the
future when the system is ready for deployment.
One major element of that context will be the choices that the PRC
makes over the intervening years concerning the deployment of its
missiles. We believe, and we are discussing this with the PRC, that
its own security interests, as well as regional security, would be
best advanced by a decision to check or scale back its missile
deployments. Trends in PRC deployments will affect our consideration
of deploying ballistic missile defense systems to Taiwan. While I
cannot predict the outcome of our discussions with the PRC, I can
assure you that enactment of this language into law will make it
harder rather than easier for us to succeed, and could fuel an arms
race that would leave Taiwan worse off.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, this bill puts the Congress on record as
endorsing the sales of a number of specific weapons, including several
which the Administration had previously denied because they did not
meet the criteria of strictly defensive weaponry.
We see a danger that this bill could be the first step in a process
whereby Congress would attempt to mandate specific arms sales, thereby
abrogating the long-standing and effective arms sales process that now
exists. That very prospect would change the dynamics of the current
process, encouraging Taiwan to seek direct Congressional authorization
for the sale of desired weapons.
Equally significant, three actions required by the bill raise
immediate constitutional concerns: the report detailing the
administration's deliberative review of Taiwan's arms sales requests
(sec. 4(b)); the plan for "operational training and exchanges of
personnel" between the Taiwan and U.S. militaries (sec. 5(b)); and the
establishment of a "secure direct communications" between the U.S. and
Taiwan military (sec. 5(c)). All three would unconstitutionally
interfere with the President's authority as Commander in Chief and
interfere with his ability to carry out his responsibilities for the
conduct of foreign relations
In considering all these potentially serious problems with the
proposed legislation, Mr. Chairman, I think is worth considering
whether there is really a need for this Act. Has the Taiwan Relations
Act failed in assisting Taiwan to provide for its security and
stability? The track record of four administrations says "no." Despite
the difficulties cross-strait relations have encountered since I
testified before you in March, the assessment of the Taiwan Relations
Act, which I offered then, remains valid:
"I have no hesitation in declaring the TRA a resounding success. Over
the past twenty years, the TRA has not only helped to preserve the
substance of our relationship with Taiwan, it has also contributed to
the conditions which have enabled the U.S., the PRC, and Taiwan to
achieve a great deal more."
While there have been periods of friction over these twenty years, the
dynamism and increasing prosperity across the Strait is unmistakable.
That dynamism and prosperity has been the product of people on both
sides of the Strait working together. Thousands of Taiwan companies
have established operations in the PRC, often in cooperation with PRC
companies, both private and government owned. Tens of thousands of PRC
workers work for these Taiwan companies.
That shared prosperity has been possible in part because Taiwan has
been able, with the support of the United States under the TRA, to
strengthen its self-defense capability. The United States has provided
a wide range of defensive military equipment to Taiwan, ranging from
Knox-class frigates, to anti-submarine S-2T aircraft, to anti-air
missiles. Just last week, when some doubted we would move forward on
pending sales, we notified to the Congress an additional sale of E-2T
early warning aircraft and parts and equipment for F-16 aircraft.
Every year, it seems, there is some speculation that the
Administration will not move forward with some sale of defensive
equipment to Taiwan because of some issue of the moment. Each time the
speculation has been wrong. We are and will remain committed to
fulfilling our obligations.
In addition to providing military systems, we have provided extensive
advice and training opportunities for Taiwan's military. Having an
unofficial relationship has not obstructed our ability to have the
kinds of contacts necessary to meet our obligations under section
three of the TRA.
All of this has occurred in accordance with our commitments under the
TRA. It has worked and is working. Taiwan has never had a stronger
defense capability, and that capability remains robust as a result of
our ongoing efforts. I would propose that this answers the question I
posed a moment ago. The Taiwan Relations Act has succeeded in
assisting Taiwan to provide for its security and stability. There is
no benefit to counterbalance the risks entailed in changing it.
Conclusion: A Serious Decision
In concluding, I would like to note that the TRA, for all its
considerable success, cannot by itself provide for Taiwan's security.
Given the disparity in size between the PRC and Taiwan, the island's
security must always depend on more than just military hardware. The
TRA must be complemented by peaceful interaction, including dialogue,
between Taiwan and the PRC, if we are to reduce tensions and improve
security. For twenty years, with the support of the TRA we have seen
progress, halting at times, toward such a dialogue. Despite the
difficulties of recent weeks, it must continue. It was with that in
mind that the President responded to recent statements on both sides
of the strait by reiterating our commitment to dialogue and to a
peaceful resolution of differences between Taiwan and the PRC.
This bill would not enhance the prospects for dialogue and the
peaceful resolution of differences. On the contrary, it could make it
more difficult for both sides to advance cross-strait talks. And, it
would do all this at a time of continuing concern, a time when the
U.S. must provide stability and predictability if the two sides are to
move forward to resolve their differences in a peaceful manner.
Your vote on this bill is a serious decision. It is not what some
would call "a free vote." It is a potentially dangerous vote against a
policy that has worked through four administrations and continues to