Members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a Taiwan Travel Act on Thursday that seeks to lift restrictions and allow all high-level officials of Taiwan, including its president, to visit the United States.
The bill, introduced by representatives Steve Chabot, Brad Sherman and Ted Poe, states that "it should be the policy of the United States to encourage visits between the United States and Taiwan at all levels."
"Over the past decades, United States-Taiwan relations have suffered from a lack of communication due to the self-imposed restrictions that the United States maintains on high-level visits with Taiwan," according to the text of the bill.
The proposal advocates a policy of allowing all high-level officials of Taiwan to enter the United States or U.S. embassies and consulates under conditions that demonstrate respect for such leaders.
The U.S. should also allow high-level Taiwanese and U.S. officials to meet in executive departments in the U.S., including the Department of State and Department of Defense, according to the bill.
It should also allow Taiwan's representative offices to conduct official business activities, including those involving U.S. lawmakers and government representatives without obstruction from the U.S. government or any foreign power, according to the bill.
In a statement, Peter Chen (???), president of the Washington D.C.-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs, called the introduction and timing of the act "significant."
"With the new administration in place in Taiwan the time is now for the U.S. to enable Taiwan's president (among others) to come to Washington D.C. without restrictions," said Chen, whose organization is active in promoting Taiwan's independence.
"Why do we let the unelected leaders of China come to D.C. and give them the red carpet treatment at the White House with a 21-gun salute, while we shun the democratically elected leaders of long-time ally Taiwan?" he asked.
Beijing considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and opposes any behavior that could suggest Taiwan is a sovereign country, including visits by senior officials to countries with which Taiwan does not have formal diplomatic relations.
Presidents of Taiwan have made unofficial "transit" stops in the U.S. on their way to allied countries in Central and South America, but even those have steered clear of Washington D.C.
The most recent visit by a senior Taiwanese official to Washington was that by Economic Affairs Minister John Deng in February 2015, the first such trip by an official in his position in 11 years. Trips by other Cabinet-level ministers are also extremely rare.
The bill has to be passed by both the Senate and the House, and signed by the U.S. president before it becomes law. The president can veto the bill.
In response to the bill, Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was grateful and welcomed the bill proposed by the congressmen, adding that the two countries have close ties and good communications and will continue to deepen their relations.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel