Washington D.C. – Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the senior Democratic member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, gave the following statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s full committee hearing “The Promise of the Taiwan Relations Act.”
“Chairman Royce, thank you for calling this hearing on the Taiwan Relations Act, or TRA. I am a big supporter of Taiwan and have traveled there many times; most recently with you last year on your first CODEL as Chairman.
“Next month marks the 35th anniversary of the TRA. The Act, passed in 1979, is the cornerstone of the relationship between our two nations. It has been instrumental in maintaining peace and security across the Taiwan Straits and in East Asia, and serves as the official basis for friendship and cooperation between the United States and Taiwan. I am proud to be a lead cosponsor with you, Mr. Chairman, on H. Res. 494, which reaffirms the importance and relevance of the TRA three decades after its adoption.
“Taiwan is a flourishing multiparty democracy of over 20 million people with a vibrant free market economy. It is a leading trade partner of the United States—alongside much bigger countries like Brazil and India.
“Over the past 60 years, the U.S.-Taiwan relationship has undergone dramatic changes, but Taiwan’s development into a robust and lively democracy underpins the strong U.S.-Taiwan friendship we enjoy today.
“Our relationship with Taiwan was initially defined by a shared strategic purpose of stopping the spread of communism in Asia. With the end of the Cold War, Taiwan’s political evolution from authoritarianism to one of the strongest democratic systems in Asia has transformed the U.S.-Taiwan relationship from one based solely on shared interests to one based on shared values.
“One of the main obligations of the United States under the TRA is to make available to Taiwan defensive arms so that Taiwan is able maintain a sufficient self-defense capability. Despite an improvement in the political and economic ties between Taiwan and mainland China, Beijing’s military build-up opposite Taiwan is continuing and the balance of cross-Strait military forces continues to shift in China’s favor. I encourage the Administration to work closely with Congress in meeting our obligations under the TRA and provide Taiwan with the defensive weapons it requires.
“In that light, I am very concerned about the decision of the U.S. Air Force not to fund the so-called ‘CAPES’ program in next year’s budget that would have upgraded the avionics system of F-16 fighter jets, including about 150 of Taiwan’s F-16s. The Taiwan Defense Ministry now faces a tough decision on how to move forward with the upgrade of its fighters at a reasonable cost, an upgrade that it desperately needs. I hope our witness will be able to shed some light on this issue and on a way forward for Taiwan and the United States.
“Taiwan’s political, economic, and social transformation over the past 60 years has demonstrated that a state can be modern, democratic, and thoroughly Chinese. Taiwan’s example is an inspiration for other countries in Asia and throughout the world that linger under the control of one person or one party. The fact that Taiwan has now held five direct presidential elections is a clear sign of the political maturity of the Taiwanese people and a signal to Beijing that any change in relations between Taiwan and China cannot be imposed by the mainland.
“For many years, I have been a staunch supporter of the people of Taiwan, and I will continue to lead efforts here in Congress to demonstrate continued U.S. support for Taiwan. I look forward to the testimony of our witness this morning and in hearing his view on how to further strengthen ties between the United States and Taiwan.”