A. Kan Specialist in Asian Security Affairs
Wayne M. Morrison Specialist in Asian Trade and Finance
purpose and scope of this CRS Report is to provide a succinct overview with
analysis of the issues in the U.S.-Taiwan relationship. This report will
be updated as warranted. Taiwan formally calls itself the sovereign
Republic of China (ROC), tracing its political lineage to the ROC set up after
the revolution in 1911 in China. The ROC government retreated to Taipei in
1949. The United States recognized the ROC until the end of 1978 and has
maintained a non-diplomatic relationship with Taiwan after recognition of
the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Beijing in 1979. The State
Department claims an “unofficial” U.S. relationship with Taiwan, despite
official contacts that include arms sales. The Taiwan Relations Act (TRA)
of 1979, P.L. 96-8, has governed policy in the absence of a diplomatic
relationship or a defense treaty. Other key statements that guide policy
are the three U.S.-PRC Joint Communiques of 1972, 1979, and 1982; as well
as the “Six Assurances” of 1982. (See also CRS Report RL30341, China/Taiwan: Evolution
of the “One China” Policy—Key Statements from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei.)
For decades, Taiwan has been of significant security, economic, and political
interest to the United States. In 2011, Taiwan was the 10th-largest U.S.
trading partner. Taiwan is a major innovator of information technology
(IT) products. Ties or tension across the Taiwan Strait affect international
security (with potential U.S. intervention), the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, and
U.S.- PRC cooperation. While the United States does not diplomatically
recognize Taiwan, it is a significant autonomous actor in the world.
Today, 23 countries including the Vatican have diplomatic relations with
Taiwan as the ROC. Taiwan’s 23 million people enjoy self-governance with
free elections. After Taiwan’s presidential election in 2008, the United States
congratulated Taiwan as a “beacon of democracy.” Taiwan’s democracy has
allowed its people a greater say in their status, given competing party
politics about Taiwan’s national political identity and priorities. Taiwan
held presidential and legislative elections on January 14, 2012. Kuomintang (KMT)
President Ma Ying-jeou won re-election against the candidate from the Democratic Progressive
Since Taiwan and the PRC resumed their quasi-official dialogue in 2008 under
President Ma and cross-strait tension decreased, some have stressed
concerns about steps seen as needed to be taken by the United States and
by Taiwan to strengthen their relationship. Another approach has viewed closer
cross-strait engagement as allowing U.S. attention to shift to expand
cooperation with a rising China, which opposes U.S. arms sales and other
dealings with Taiwan. In any case, Washington and Taipei have put more
efforts into their respective relations with Beijing, while contending
that they have pursued a positive, parallel U.S.-Taiwan relationship.
Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has sought U.S. support for his policies,
including U.S. arms sales and Taiwan’s inclusion in the U.S. Visa Waiver
Program (VWP). Taiwan also has asked for an extradition treaty. Another
U.S. policy issue has concerned whether to resume Cabinet-level visits.
The United States and Taiwan have sought to resume trade talks under the Trade
and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), but there have been U.S.
concerns about Taiwan’s restrictions on U.S. beef. Taiwan seeks support
for participation in international organizations.
Legislation in the 112th Congress include H.Con.Res. 39, H.Con.Res. 77,
H.Con.Res. 122, H.R. 2583, H.R. 2918, H.R. 2992, H.R. 4310, S. 1539, S.
1545, and S.Con.Res. 17. Other congressional actions have focused
on arms sales to Taiwan, particularly the issue of whether to sell F-16C/D
fighters. (See CRS Report RL30957, Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990.)
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