Democrats and Republicans may differ starkly on the significance of President Clinton's comments on Taiwan, but they're joining in insisting that those remarks do not signal change in U.S. policy.
The House late Monday approved a resolution 390-1 reaffirming a 19-year-old commitment of U.S. support for Taiwan's sovereignty. It follows a 92-0 Senate vote on a nearly identical measure earlier this month.Because the resolution only expresses the "sense of Congress" and does not have force of law, it does not go to Clinton for his signature.
Republicans asserted that the vote helps repair the damage Clinton did when he talked about Taiwan's "reunification" during his recent China trip. Democrats retorted that there was no damage, that Clinton did not mean to telegraph a change in policy but that there is no harm in reiterating that policy.
"The net result of all of this is that U.S. policy toward Taiwan remains unchanged," said Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, the senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee.
Still, Hamilton suggested that Clinton's remarks during his China visit, including his use of the term "reunification," could be interpreted as ambiguous and that the president probably should have chosen different words.
While in China, Clinton stated opposition to Taiwanese independence, a separate Taiwan government and the island nation's bid to join the United Nations. He also used the word "unification" in discussing Taiwan's future - a word that does not appear in U.S. doctrine.
The resolution adopted by both the House and the Senate restates the principal tenets of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act that the island's future "will be determined by peaceful means, with the consent of the people of Taiwan."