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Requiring Consultations on U.S.-Taiwan Arms Sales Talks

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

REQUIRING CONSULTATIONS ON U.S.-TAIWAN ARMS SALES TALKS -- (House of Representatives - September 23, 2008)


Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in strong support of H.R. 6646, a bill to require the executive branch to provide quarterly briefings to Congress on possible defense transfers from the United States to Taiwan.

At the outset, I'd like to thank Chairman Howard Berman and the leadership on both sides for helping to expedite consideration of this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, this is a modest bill. It requires the executive branch again to regularly brief Congress on our policy toward Taiwan and, in particular, the defense needs of Taiwan and the security balance across the strait.

Why is this bill even necessary? Well, it's necessary because a long-rumored freeze on United States foreign military sales to Taiwan was confirmed on July 16 by Admiral Timothy Keating, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific.

According to press accounts of his remarks at the Heritage Foundation, Admiral Keating observed that there have been ``no significant arms sales from the U.S. to Taiwan in relatively recent times,'' and that the absence of arms sales under the Foreign Military Sales process reflected ``administration policy.''

Admiral Keating went on to suggest that he had, in fact, discussed the issue of Taiwan arms sales with leaders in Beijing, noting that, ``The Chinese have made clear to me their concerns over any arms sales to Taiwan.''

I found Admiral Keating's remarks at the Heritage Foundation affirming that there was, in fact, a ``freeze'' on arms sales to Taiwan to be a cause for great concern. Even more disturbing was the Admiral's indication that the Chinese leadership had had some input into the decision of the United States about Taiwan's defensive needs and our commitment to Taiwan under our laws.

The Taiwan Relations Act gives Congress a clear role in the provision of defensive weapons to Taiwan. President Reagan's ``Six Assurances'' to Taiwan was a solemn commitment made over a quarter century ago making it clear that there should be no pre-consultation with Beijing on this matter. However, it seems that, while Congress has been left in the dark on this issue--which is of vital concern to our national security interests--the Chinese leadership has been kept fully abreast of our Nation's intentions.

Last year, the House passed a resolution that I put forward which declared, ``It shall continue to be the policy of the United States, consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, to make available to Taiwan such defense articles and services as may be necessary for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.'' That remains my firm position.

The legitimate defense needs of our friends in Taiwan must be met no matter who attended the Beijing Olympics nor how helpful the State Department says that China has been in the talks with North Korea. That is the clear intention of the Taiwan Relations Act. That is the clear commitment that President Reagan gave to Taiwan. On this matter, Mr. Speaker, there can be no backsliding or compromise.

I hope and I trust that this bill can be passed swiftly prior to congressional adjournment and thereby alleviate some of the confusion over this so-called arms ``freeze.''

For almost 30 years, the judicious sale of defensive weapons has been an essential element in the United States support for a secure, stable and democratic Taiwan as well as for peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Now is not the time to backtrack from that historic and bipartisan policy.

Mr. Speaker, this Congress should do everything in its power to ensure that Taiwan will continue as a beacon of democracy shining its light directly across the strait in the very heart of Tiananmen Square.

I urge support of this bill.


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