Suggested Questions for the Senate Hearing on Taiwan

April 2, 2014

By FPI Senior Policy Analyst Patrick Christy and Policy Director Robert Zarate

On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs will hold a hearing on U.S. policy towards Taiwan, with Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel.  As Washington and Taipei mark the 35th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act (P.L. 96-8), this hearing will give lawmakers an opportunity to understand better Taiwan’s role in America’s “Rebalance” to Asia, and debate next steps in advance bilateral relations.  The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) suggests the following questions as lawmakers, their staff, and the wider public prepare for this hearing.


Taiwan’s Role in America’s Asia Rebalance

(1) As the United States “rebalances” to the Asia-Pacific, it is working with Japan to revise a bilateral agreement on how Washington and Tokyo coordinate military operations, finalizing with the Philippines an agreement that reportedly would give the U.S. military increased access to Filipino facilities, and implementing a free trade agreement with South Korea that went into force in March 2012.  The United States, however, appears to lack a compelling narrative on how it will incorporate Taiwan—diplomatically, economically, and militarily—into the Asia Rebalance.

  • Assistant Secretary Russel, given that Taiwan is an important U.S. economic and security partner, what major policy initiatives is the United States pursuing to integrate Taiwan more fully into America’s Asia Rebalance effort?

U.S.-Taiwan Economic Engagement

(2) The United States and Taiwan resumed trade talks under what’s known as Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in March 2013.  One year later, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kin Moy said, “We are considering Taiwan's interest in restarting exploratory talks for a Bilateral Investment Agreement, and we welcome Taiwan’s interest” in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed regional trade and investment agreement that’s initially being negotiated by the United States and 11 other nations.

  • Assistant Secretary Russel, will the United States and Taiwan begin negotiations on a Bilateral Investment Agreement when U.S. and Taiwanese officials hold the next round of TIFA talks in Washington on April 4th?
  • What role does the United States see Taiwan eventually playing in our larger efforts to increase economic integration and liberalization in the Asia-Pacific—in particular, the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

(3) Taiwan and mainland China may deepen economic integration by advancing a proposed trade pact that would liberalize trade and investment in more than 100 service sectors.  However, the proposed pact has triggered a tense political debate in Taiwan, as illustrated by the hundreds of protestors occupying Taiwan’s legislature—and the thousands in the streets surrounding the Parliament—since March 18th.

  • Assistant Secretary Russel, given that Taiwan is already highly dependent on exports to the mainland, what actions should the United States take to help Taiwan to diversify its trade partners and lessen its economic reliance on the mainland?
  • Could you describe how Beijing’s political influence would expand over Taipei if the economic pact is finalized?  What consequences would this have on America’s ability to execute its Asia Rebalance?

Regional Security Concerns

(4) The 2013 Department of Defense Annual Report to Congress on China’s military capabilities warned that “[p]reparing for potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait appears to remain the principal focus and primary driver of China’s military investment.”

  • Assistant Secretary Russel, given that Taiwan’s military spending has fallen from nearly 4 percent of gross domestic product in 1994 to as low as 2 percent of GDP in 2014, what risks and challenges do the People’s Liberation Army and Navy pose to Taiwan’s self-defense?
  • What steps will the United States take to help Taiwan to develop undersea warfare (USW) capabilities, and to modernize its air force and air defenses?

(5) In November 2013, the People’s Republic of China announced the creation of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that covered large portions of the East China Sea, including the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands.  Senior officials in the Chinese military also reportedly said that establishing a second ADIZ over the South China Sea would be in the country’s interest.  However, you recently told House lawmakers that “[a]ny Chinese claim to maritime rights not based on claimed land features [in the South China Sea] would be inconsistent with international law.”

  • Assistant Secretary Russel, what do you believe were China’s motives in imposing an Air Defense Identification Zone over areas in the East China Sea where Beijing has conflicting maritime and territorial claims with its neighbors?  How concerned are you that China may move to impose an ADIZ over the South China Sea?
  • Given that both China and Taiwan have similar claims in the East and South China Seas, how do you view Taiwan’s more responsible approach to the issue, as characterized by the fisheries agreement reached between Taipei and Tokyo last spring?

Taiwan’s Role in International Organizations

(6) In October 2013, Taiwan attended the annual International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly meeting as a guest.  In February 2014, Ambassador-designate to the ICAO Michael Lawson told lawmakers “the reason… they were only able to get status was an issue with respect to the consensus.  We will work diligently to counter that and make sure that they get observer status.  It's very important.”

  • Assistant Secretary Russel, what specific steps has the United States taken since October 2013 to broaden international consensus regarding Taiwan obtaining observer status at the International Civil Aviation Organization?  In addition, how is the United States actively supporting Taiwan’s efforts to obtain non-member observer state status at other major international bodies, such as the World Health Organization?

Civilian Nuclear Cooperation

(7) In December 2009, the United Arab Emirates concluded a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States in which the Emirates legally obliged to uphold a new “gold standard” for responsible nuclear behavior by forsaking uranium enrichment, plutonium reprocessing or other sensitive nuclear activities.  In January 2014, President Obama submitted for congressional review a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement in which Taiwan made a similar legally-binding obligation.

  • Assistant Secretary Russel, why hasn’t the Obama administration done more to highlight Taiwan’s leadership in responsible nuclear behavior—in particular, Taiwan’s willingness to oblige itself in a legally-binding agreement not to pursue uranium enrichment, plutonium reprocessing, and other weapons-relevant nuclear activities that the United States is trying to convince Iran and others to abandon?
  • If a prospective agreement with Iran allows Tehran to enrich uranium, would it not undermine efforts by the United States to establish a “gold standard” for responsible nuclear behavior in which states in Asia and other regions refrain from uranium enrichment, plutonium reprocessing, and other sensitive nuclear activities?

Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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