In Taipei, the unmentioned question haunted our U.S. Congressional Delegation’s formal meetings with Taiwanese officials, including President Ma Ying-jeou, Vice President Wu Den-yih, Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng of the governing Kuomintang Party (KMT), and the major opposition leader Tsai Ying-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Like once heated lovers in a cooling affair, Taiwanese officials delicately broached specific issues between us, hoping our responses could answer the heart of the matter.
Following formal pleasantries, with minor sequential variations the official meetings assumed the certainty of an assembly line.
Be they supportive or opposed, the Taiwanese officials would inquire how the U.S, viewed their government’s “rapproachment with deterrence” policy toward “Mainland China”. This policy subordinates Taiwan and the People’s Repubic of China’s sovereignty disputes; promotes commercial ties between their increasingly entwined economies; and enhances Taiwan’s strong, defensive military posture regarding its bellicose neighbor.
Our delegation, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), would respond that, though some U.S. Representatives (myself included), harbor grave concerns about communist China manipulating increased commercial ties to subvert Taiwanese democracy, all delegation members believed it is ultimately up to Taiwan’s sovereign citizens to determine the merits of the “rapproachment with deterrence” policy.
Then, Taiwanese officials would ask if the U.S. will sell Taiwan our best military equipment, including F-16 fighter jets, to facilitate this policy’s deterrence component.
Our delegation would reply that members largely favored the selling of modern U.S. armaments, including F-16 fighter jets, to our staunch ally, who out of necessity would use them only in a defensive capacity.
Next, Taiwanese officials would inquire if the anticipated legislative progress to repeal the ban on importing American beef will rekindle U.S. interest in a free trade agreement with Taiwan?
Our delegation would answer that a resumption of American beef imports certainly wouldn’t hinder renewed impetus to discussions about a potential U.S. and Taiwan free trade agreement.
Lastly, Taiwanese officials would ask if Taiwan will be allowed to participate in the visa waiver program?
Our delegation would express a general consensus that Taiwan should be in the visa waiver program.
With that, the departing diplomatic niceties commenced and closed, while the unmentioned question gnawed…
Until the Formosa Youth Foundation forum, when a young Taiwanese student rose, cleared his throat, and asked:
“If the Mainland comes for us, will you stand with us?”
What is your answer?