Thanks to a rare bit of legislation unanimously passed earlier this week in both the House and Senate (which received almost zero MSM attention), President Trump has a new bill on his desk awaiting his signature. It represents a subtle, but still inflammatory shift in our relationship with Taiwan. The measure immediately drew condemnation from China as one would expect, but word from inside the White House is that Trump is planning on signing it. (Free Beacon)
President Donald Trump is expected to sign into law new legislation opposed by China that calls for increasing high-level visits with Taiwan, according to administration officials.
The president could sign the measure into law in the coming days, said officials familiar with the issue.
The action has set off a vigorous internal debate between White House advisers who favor conciliatory policies toward China and others pushing for tougher trade and security policies toward Beijing.
A White House spokesman said he had no announcement on the legislation.
What’s being discussed here is H.R. 535 and its companion bill in the Senate, known as the Taiwan Travel Act. It’s not exactly the announcement of a new treaty or anything particularly substantial in terms of policy, but the measure is described as supporting “expanded official visits to and from Taiwan at all levels.”
As you can imagine if you follow politics in that region, it doesn’t take much more than a mention of Taiwan in terms of more independent diplomatic status to send China into fits of apoplexia. This isn’t exactly new territory for the President, however. Shortly after the election, Trump was the first President-elect to speak to a Taiwanese leader in nearly forty years. He even briefly threatened to walk away from U.S. support of the One China policy last year before changing his mind. Most recently, the Pentagon approved the sale of 250 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Taiwan.
None of the details in this bill necessarily represent a drastic shift in our stance on the One China Policy and the White House has already said that we’re still sticking with that position. But given the tension between Washington and Beijing over trade after our withdrawal from TPP and the new steel and aluminum tariffs, this just might represent Trump tossing another log on the fire to gain some leverage. After all, we already have great relations with Taiwan within the limits allowed by China so it’s not as if we need to improve them. And all this would really do is open up opportunities for more diplomatic visits between Taiwanese President Tsai Ling-wen or her staff and American officials. (They are currently limited in how and where they can visit the United States in any official capacity.)
But if this bill is actually signed into law, China is already making some threats of a very serious nature. They recently began flying military and commercial flights right down the center of the Taiwan Strait in what was obviously designed as an act of provocation. This has led Taiwan to scramble their air force and intercept any incursions into their air defense zone. China is also issuing some rather stark reminders that new diplomatic recognition of Taiwan as anything other than a breakaway province of theirs, “could trigger one of China’s conditions for using force to reunite the island, an anti-secession regulation.”
If this is a game of liar’s poker going on between Washington and Beijing, we should keep in mind that this isn’t a war we want any part of. Despite having agreements providing for military support under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, China certainly can’t be thinking that we would seriously launch a naval attack in the Taiwan Strait or use our air capabilities to hit Chinese targets on the mainland. And despite what you read about Donald Trump in the Washington Post I cannot imagine him even considering an option that could put us in an open state of war with the Chinese.
As I said above, I’m guessing that this is all part of a negotiating tactic. And even if the bill is signed into law, it only “encourages” more travel and contacts with the Taiwanese government. It doesnt’ mandate it. The real insult to the Chinese wouldn’t take place until Taiwan’s president is invited over to the Rose Garden for a press conference and dinner in the West Wing. If we get to that point then we’ll have to revisit this situation and possibly invest in some new bomb shelters.