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Taiwan reacts with moderate optimism to US Senate's Travel Act
04 March 2018, 02:04 | Floyd Cook
"China is strongly dissatisfied with this and resolutely opposes it, and has already lodged stern representations with the US side", Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China's foreign minister, told reporters at a news briefing, according to Reuters.
The legislation, which only needs US President Donald Trump's signature to become law, says it should be US policy to allow officials at all levels to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taiwanese counterparts, permit high-level Taiwanese officials to enter the US "under respectful conditions" and meet with US officials.
The US Senate passed the Taiwan Travel Act, meant to encourage visits between the United States and Taiwan "at all levels", by unanimous consent on Wednesday, following its approval in the House of Representatives in January.
The limitations were imposed in a bid to avoid upsetting Beijing, despite the fact that US military forces could be called on to defend Taiwan from an attack from China under the terms of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act.
She described the principle as the foundation of US-China relations.
Beijing requires all foreign governments with which it has diplomatic relations to hew to a "one China" policy, which means forgoing an official relationship with Taiwan (formally the Republic of China, but claimed by the People's Republic of China in Beijing as part of its territory).
Yang suggested Congress's passage of the Taiwan Travel Act could give President Trump leverage in his dealings with Beijing, as he could float the possibility of vetoing it, or more likely use administrative discretion to refrain from arranging the kind of official exchanges that threaten Beijing.
Despite the stern warnings from Beijing, Taiwan has welcomed the U.S. legislation.
China's hostility towards Taiwan has risen since the election to president of Ms Tsai from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party in 2016.
Taiwan, however, has responded positively to America's decisions.
Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen praised the bill's final passing in a tweet posted late on Wednesday evening, saying it "symbolizes the #US Congress' longstanding support for #Taiwan".
Young protesters in the northern city of Taoyuan, carrying an anti-China banner, splashed red paint on the tomb of Chiang Kai-shek, the generalissimo who fled to Taiwan after losing China's civil war to the communists and who declared martial law on the island that lasted until 1987, 12 years after his death.
China has dramatically upped its military presence around Taiwan. Nevertheless, Washington has kept informal relations with the island nation after severing diplomatic ties with it in 1979. China regularly says Taiwan is the most sensitive issue in its ties with Washington.
On Wednesday, the US Senate passed the Taiwan Travel Act, facilitating mutual trips and meetings between officials from Taiwan and the United States. However, that visit occurred under Taiwan's previous Ma Ying-jeou administration, which Beijing viewed more favorably. That followed similarly unanimous House passage on January 9, 2018, almost a year after the bill was introduced by Representative Steve Chabot (R-OH).
The bill's passage through the Senate comes at a time when the U.S. is increasingly wary of China over its growing maritime presence.
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