Among U.S. conservatives, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, stands as a model of the modern major foreign policy leader. Royce always takes time to consider legislation that impacts the diplomatic community. He sees foreign relations as being a matter of “people” as much as it is about great-power diplomacy and he further insists that America know which countries are friends and which are enemies — and that they be treated accordingly.
On April 7, the House passed with overwhelming bipartisan support H.R. 3470, the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) Affirmation and Naval Vessel Transfer Act, introduced by Royce. The legislation reaffirms U.S. commitment to the TRA and strengthens ties with key U.S. security partners by transferring ships that meet shared maritime security requirements. Specifically, the legislation authorizes the transfer by sale of four Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates to Taiwan.
The security of Taiwan and its democracy is of the utmost importance to the United States. Located in the “first island chain” between China and the Pacific Ocean, its position limits China’s access to the Central Pacific. It is also under standing threat from China. And it’s the TRA that continues to allow Taiwan access to purchase the defense technology that is necessary to credibly assert its interests vis-à-vis China and most effectively serve as an American partner.
Over the past few decades, Taiwan faces one of the most complex and lethal military threats in the world. Across the region, in response to China’s buildup and increasing assertiveness, China’s neighbors are moving to strengthen their security relationships with the U.S. This gravitation to the US will only last as long as the US is seen as a credible guarantor of stability. Royce is a strong proponent of the sale of F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan. He insists that moving forward with this F-16 sale would be an appropriate signal to Taiwan and to the region.
Royce's electoral district in California is home to quite a few residents from Taiwan and that he has been a friend to Taiwan for many years. He and other leading colleagues in the U.S. Congress have been strong supporters of the TRA and the Six Assurances, and have called for increased arms sales to Taiwan as well as stronger bilateral economic and trade relations. The Taiwan people are very thankful for Chairman Royce's efforts in this regard.
Last year, Royce authored a bill in support of Taiwan's admission to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as an observer, and secured the legislation's passage. Subsequently, after a 42-year absence from the organization, Taiwan in last September participated in the ICAO Assembly in Montreal as a special guest. Taiwan is an important nation in aviation, because Taiwan's air traffic controllers help direct more than 1.3 million international flights through Taiwan's airspace per year. Membership in the ICAO would make it a lot easier for Taiwan to obtain aviation-related information.
Chairman Royce truly cares about the best interests of Taiwan. He has co-sponsored several pro-Taiwan pieces of legislation over the past two years and is a founding member of the Congressional Taiwan Caucus. “Security isn’t based on weapons alone. It may be a wishful thinking with this administration and Congress, but I’d like to see movement on a free-trade agreement with Taiwan. Certainly, if we throw up trade barriers, it would significantly destabilize Taiwan’s economy. Let’s not give free trade short shrift,” he said.
A leading voice on many different regions of the world, Royce understands that a strong Taiwan confident in its relationship with the U.S. is a key to peace and security in the region, and is of profound importance to the United States. Strengthening American long-standing friendship with the people on Taiwan remains a key element of the U.S. strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. There is no doubt that he known for his analytical foresight into key U.S. foreign policy issues.
The U.S.-Taiwan relationship, though unofficial, has never been stronger than it is today. I firmly believe that Royce’s leadership and determination would help guide US foreign policy in the direction to better serve the interests of the people. Taiwan has earned a respected place in the world. Every society wishes dignity for itself, and 23 millions people on Taiwan are no exception. Kudos and thanks to the Mr. Royce, people of goodwill in the United States and on Taiwan have a firm foundation to further strengthen our robust relationship for the benefit of both our peoples.
Wang is advisory commissioner for the Overseas Chinese Affairs Council, who publishes frequently on the Taiwan issue in Sino-American relations, as well as other topics on East Asian international politics and regional security.