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May 23, 2017

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The U.S.-Taiwan Business Council head worried about United States-Taiwan ties

The relationship between Taiwan and the U.S. is slipping further into a malaise while the triangular U.S.-China-Taiwan relationship is expected to continue to deteriorate well past the end of Chen Shui-bian's presidency, according to Rupert J. Hammond-Chambers, president of the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council (UTBC) based in the U.S.

In a special commentary on the organization's Web site, www.us-taiwan.org, the chief of the organization formed by American business leaders expressed his concerns about the lack of quality communication between Washington and Taipei, the current U.S. administration's possible tip toward Beijing for China's regained economic influence in an environment further complicated by President Chen Shui-bian's unpredictability.

Hammond-Chambers pointed out that the U.S.-China-Taiwan relationship remains one of the United States' most challenging foreign policy issues, despite current American focus on the Middle East.

The stakes are enormous; it isn't simply the real prospect of U.S. forces involved in a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait, but that such a conflict would have a devastating effect on America's economy, he observed.

Hammond-Chambers described Taiwan as the lubricant in America's commercial relationship with China, because it is Taiwan companies in China that make cellphones, laptops, and next-generation iPods for U.S. companies and consumers.

If that supply chain is ever severed, as it would be during an armed conflict, the effects would ripple over the U.S. economy in a manner more remnant of the 1970s oil crisis than the present sub-prime adjustment.

While China's political influence and prominence in the U.S. continue growing, U.S. relations with Taiwan are left in an increasingly precarious position, he pointed out.

Why does the U.S. fear establishing senior and regular dialogue? Why, for example, has the U.S. moved away from sending economic Cabinet officers to Taiwan on a regular basis as was the policy of the Clinton Administration?, he asked.

Communication — or the lack thereof — is very much at the heart of the inability of the U.S., Taiwan, and China to deal with the recent changes in the Taiwan Strait.

At present there is excellent communication between the U.S. and China, partial communication between the U.S. and Taiwan, and no communication between China and Taiwan.

It is very difficult to comprehend how the triangular relationship will improve when the quality and level of dialogue over shared concerns is so erratic and unbalanced, he said.

Reflecting the views of many pundits, he noted that President Chen Shui-bian's unpredictability — when it comes to cross-strait issues — has often been to the detriment of U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific, and he bears some of the burden for the poor communication between Washington and Taipei.

These tensions are increasingly permeating into America's defense commitment to Taiwan, undertaken as part of America's legal obligations to provide Taiwan with diplomatic and military support under the Taiwan Relations Act.

Although Taiwan lawmakers had passed funds for procuring additional F-16s, the U.S. has informed Taiwan that it should not submit a Letter of Request — the critical first step in the arms sale process — until further notice, thereby leaving this pressing matter in limbo, he revealed.

A short-term need to censure Taiwan, or more specifically its president, should never impact America's long-term commitment to maintaining the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait, he advised.

"... Taiwan presidents will come and go, but the U.S. will continue to need a strong and stable underlying relationship with Taiwan, a relationship founded on a number of essential and consistent commitments, he emphasized.

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