This off an Australian news network last night;
The US House of Representatives has voted to lift a ban on high-level US contacts with Taiwan, in a move could theoretically open the way for visits by Taiwanese officials to the White House.
An amendment prohibiting the government from enforcing the so-called 2001 “Guidelines on Relations With Taiwan” was tucked into a 60-billion-dollar spending bill funding the State Department by a bipartisan group of congressmen and passed by a voice vote on Wednesday.
The Senate still has to approve the measure, but Republican Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado, who sponsored the legislation, already hailed the vote as a victory for friends of democracy in Asia.
“China shouldn’t control our foreign policy, Americans should,” he said in a statement.
“Lifting these humiliating restrictions will force State Department bureaucrats to treat Taiwan as an equal partner in freedom and democracy.”
‘One China’ policy
The guidelines were issued by the State Department to reinforce the “one China” policy adopted by the United States in 1979, when Washington switched its formal diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.
They specifically prohibited holding meetings with Taiwanese representatives at the White House or the State Department building, and barred high-level federal employees from attending formal Taiwanese receptions.
Mid-level State and Defence Department officials were banned from travelling to Taiwan on “official business,” while officials above the rank of assistant secretary were prohibited from making trips to the island even for personal reasons.
Also banned under the guidelines was direct correspondence between US and Taiwanese officials.
Meanwhile, the appellation “Republic of China” was banished from the government’s vocabulary.
Neither the White House nor the State Department had an immediate response to the House vote.
Mainland China views Taiwan as a renegade province, and has threatened military action if the island formally declares independence.
Support from democrats
Democratic Congressman Robert Andrews of New Jersey, a co-sponsor of the amendment, said he believed the lifting of the guidelines would enable the United States to “more effectively communicate and interact with a close friend and one of the strongest Asian democracies.”
His fellow Democrat from Ohio, Sherrod Brown, expressed satisfaction with the House decision and called the restrictions “senseless” because they keep Taiwanese leaders from visiting the United States.
“We should treat Taiwan like we treat our other allies,” argued Republican Representative Steve Chabot, also of Ohio.
“Lets do the right thing and scrap these counterproductive guidelines that prevent high-level US officials from communicating with their counterparts in Taiwan.”
The amendment was heavily promoted by members the influential Taiwanese lobby, who are alarmed by what they see as China’s growing economic and political clout in the United States.
Leaders of the lobby were particularly incensed by recent transit arrangements made for Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, who travelled to Costa Rica and Paraguay in May.
In a departure from the previous practice of allowing Taiwanese leaders a few days in the country, the US government offered Mr Chen only access to refuelling facilities in Alaska and Hawaii.
The Formosan Association for Public Affairs has been conducting a petition drive to persuade members of Congress to lift restrictions on official contacts with Taiwan.