Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Nelson Report, June 15: the possibility of a 4th Communique

Nelson Report on 4th Communique and Kissinger, who has done so much harm to the world and may do more to Taiwan...

HFAC testimony, Kissinger rumors, has folks worried)
...time to end defense ambiguity (Joe Bosco)

SUMMARY: the Trump Administration may have inadvertently stumbled into another "one China" problem, following yesterday's testimony to House Foreign Affairs by Sec. St. Tillerson, see in full, below.

It generated high angst by official Taiwan observers here (the always sensible DPP rep Mike Fonte, for example) concerned that a "4th Communique" may be in the works along the lines of what so worried people following the November Trump/Xi exchange, after the Tsai/Trump phone call, not to mention Trump's clearly transactional phrasing on Taiwan and N. Korea "help" from China.

Here's what started today's discussion, in Mike's colorful phrasing, "which has folks' hair on fire in Taiwan!":

Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH)

Thank you, Secretary Tillerson, for being with us today. I've been a member of this committee for two decades now. I've chaired the Middle East subcommittee and the Asia Pacific subcommittee as well. The issue that I'd like to discuss with you this morning is Taiwan. As a founding member of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus and having been to that nation-and I use that term "nation" intentionally-quite a few times, I take the commitments of our country that we've made with Taiwan very seriously, and I believe that you do too.

Taiwan is a close ally of ours. It's one that truly exercises freedom and democracy, and can be a role model to other nations facing an aggressive, bullying neighbor. Taiwan faces an unrelenting threat from China, which has nearly 600 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. And although Taiwan enjoys de facto independence, China's ultimate goal, as we know, is annexation of the island. Therefore, the Taiwan Strait remains a potential hotspot.

The PRC's aggression toward Taiwan has only grown over the years. The PRC more and more is referring to Taiwan as a "core interest" to them. They continue to block Taiwan's participation in international gatherings, and the world, including the United States, embarrassingly, usually yields to China's bullying. Further, China continues its long campaign around the world to stop the recognition of Taiwan, and Panama just this week announced its intention to yield to that pressure.

Fortunately, the 38 year-old Taiwan Relations Act is still alive and in place, and this historic legislation has thus far maintained peace and stability. But we must be clear to the PRC that if push comes to shove, the United States will stand with Taiwan.

Now, Mr. Secretary, a couple of questions. China would never allow us to determine who they can meet with. Yet, because of fear of offending China, principally, we won't allow high Taiwanese officials to set foot in this city-our nation's capital, Washington, D.C., right here. Some years back, several dozen members of Congress, including myself, had to get on a plane to fly to New York City one evening, after votes, to meet with the President of Taiwan, President Chen-I know some other members are nodding because they were on that plane with me-because he wasn't allowed to come to our nation's capital. Now, an important bill to remedy this, which I've introduced in previous congresses as well, H.R. 535, the Taiwan Travel Act, would allow the Taiwan president, vice president, foreign minister, and defense minister to come here, and it's being marked up tomorrow in the Asia and Pacific subcommittee, and I'd welcome the administration's support for that measure, and I'd appreciate your comment, please.

Sec. Tillerson

Well I think, Congressman, you've summarized it quite well in terms of the situation as we see it today, between China and Taiwan. As you know, the China-U.S. relationship has been defined for the past 50 years by our 'one China' policy, and our agreement around [the] 'one China' policy. They have their interpretation of what that means, and we have ours, and we've agreed that we'd accommodate each other's interpretation. But it has led to 50 years of stability in the region, it has prevented conflict, it has allowed for this economic growth that has gone on-much of which we have benefitted from.

As we began our dialogue with Chinese leadership with this new administration, as you know there was some questioning of our commitment to 'one China' early on. The President has reaffirmed that we are committed to the 'one China' policy. We are also completely committed to the Taiwan Relations Act and fulfilling all of our commitments to them under that Act.

But we are also in a discussion with China now about what is our relationship going to be for the next 50 years. How do we enter another era of stability and absence of conflict? And Taiwan, clearly, to the Chinese, is a part of that discussion. So it's important as we engage with them that we are able to fulfill our commitments to Taiwan, which we have every intention of doing. The question is, is the 'one China' policy sustainable for the next 50 years? And those are the kinds of discussions we're having. They are extremely complex, in many regards. But this is what we see as another 50 years of stability and no conflict with China in the Pacific region. Taiwan is a big element of that, North Korea is a big element of that, their island-building and militarization of islands is a significant element of that. All of these are in our discussion with them about how do we define this relationship with them for the next half century, to ensure we have a continued era of no conflict and stability.

Hummm....so what's the issue from this? Mike explains:

We particularly are concerned about what seems to be an indication that a major review of the US' one China policy is underway. We know that Henry Kissinger and Chinese Amb. Cui Tiankai have direct relations with Jared Kushner and Kissinger has, for years, longed for a "4th Communique."

We are worried that the Trump Administration's lack of experienced senior officials re Taiwan might not understand the implications of changing the US language re Taiwan, e.g. changing the current statement that the US "acknowledges the Chinese position that Taiwan is part of China" to "recognizes the Chinese position...." This would have tremendous impact on US policy toward Taiwan.

I hope that concerned people will flag the Tillerson quote and publicly state to the Administration that any discussion of the US one China policy must include consultations with the Congress and should also include discussions with Taiwan, our great partner in East Asia.

We ran all this by our long-time Adult Supervisor on all things US-China, former HFAC colleague and AIT chief Richard Bush, Brookings:


The origin of the "next 50 years" theme is from Tillerson's press statement in Beijing:

...I'm pleased to be here this afternoon in Beijing to discuss the way forward in forging a constructive and results-oriented relationship between the United States and China. This is an important opportunity to follow up on the telephone conversation between President Trump and President Xi and to pave the way for continued productive high-level engagement. Since the historic opening of relations between our two countries more than 40 years ago, the U.S.-China relationship has been guided by an understanding of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation. It is important that the leaders of our two countries engage in further dialogue to develop a common understanding that will guide our relationship for the next half-century. The United States and China are the world's two largest economies, and we must both promote stability and growth. Our two countries should have a positive trading relationship that is fair and pays dividends both ways, and we will be working on that going forth.

Note also that Tillerson said that it was "to the Chinese" the Taiwan issue was an important part of the discussion, and that "it's important as we engage with them that we are able to fulfill our commitments to Taiwan, which we have every intention of doing."

Was he speaking extemporaneously about Taiwan here? Probably (never a good idea). Is he referring to specific "discussions" we are having with the Chinese that include the Taiwan issue? I certainly hope not, but he could well have been speaking in general terms.


And here's Jim Przystup, NDU, Your Editor's colleague on HFAC Asia Subc., and the staff co-author of The Taiwan Relations Act in 1979:

"Well, I think [NSC Sr. Director] Pottinger gets this OK, but given both Trump and Tillerson's lack of background, l think the concerns expressed are the latest example of Taiwan's 'prevent defense' just in case!"

"Anon" US expert:

Big step here: Does Team Trump have the time or inclination to develop a 4th Communique? What work would such a document do for Trump Foreign policy goals, quite apart from China's or Taiwan's? I think this is quite a leap. As tempting as it may be to see HAK's dark hand in everything, I mean, China isn't Chile.

Alan Romberg, Stimson Center:

That folks may be reviewing China policy as a whole, and even looking specifically at Taiwan policy, doesn't necessarily translate into a fourth communiqué. But while I agree with 'Anon' about not leaping to conclusions, and that overall the thrust of Tillerson's comments on Taiwan was fine, I have to say I think that his remarks about the 'one China policy' were not carefully chosen (or if they were, they were not well chosen) and could use some cleaning up.


Hummm...so do we feel better now? Not much, although we agree with Jim and Alan especially. Scroll down for info on a Carnegie program on Taiwan June 27, and Joe Bosco on why clarity is needed on the defense of Taiwan.

Footnote: at today's HFAC Asia Subc. hearing with private experts, Loyal Reader Dan Blumenthal, AEI, asked by chairman Yoho about a 4th Communique:

...bad idea because the Chinese have gotten what they want from the communiques, and Taiwan has gotten the short end when the C's get interpreted by US officials...

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

I think US will have to abandon taiwan sooner or later. They know the military balance has changed to the point where taiwan is indefensible. So the best thing US can do is reduce chances of China getting jittery about taiwan to actually think about military option. US can bring stability by assuring China that taiwan is part of China and they will oppose Taiwan independence. Taiwan independence has become an obsolete idea with China so strong. Its gonna get even more strong as time goes on. Better to save face and back out now for America

Tommy said...

Did you write this before or after Trump's NK tweet about China? Not that I put much stock in any of Trump's tweets, since so many of them have proven to be hot air, but this, plus the fact that this week's strategic dialogue with China seems to have yielded little, makes me wonder whether the fear of this is overblown.

I do not doubt Kissinger's nefarious motives, but I do wonder whether facts on the ground are making the thought of a pro-China fourth communique untenable. What benefit would this serve for Trump right now? Pre-Warmbier, he might have made it seem like China is doing its part. But the conditions of Warmbier's release and death would make Trump seem rather callous to entertain China too heavily without some massive concessions from China on the NK issue, which China does not seem prepared to make.

So, while the thought of Taiwan as a sacrificial pawn is a worry, I do wonder just what Trump could gain by throwing Taiwan under the bus. At the current juncture, he would just make his own political situation worse by allowing such a communique to go through. Your thoughts?

Shultz Lu said...

Will Taiwan become another sad story like Tibet? Only time will tell.