Washington--Six U.S. senators, including Republican Marco Rubio from Florida, have jointly introduced the Taiwan Travel Act, legislation that encourages visits between the United States and Taiwan at all levels.
Other colleagues who joined Rubio to present the bill on Thursday included Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Gary Peters (D-MI).
The draft bill states that Congress believes the U.S. government should encourage visits between officials from the United States and Taiwan at all levels, instead of placing restrictions on such visits.
The U.S. government should allow officials at all levels, including cabinet-level national security officials, general officers, and other executive branch officials, to travel to Taiwan to meet their Taiwanese counterparts, according to the bill.
The bill also states that high-level officials in Taiwan should be allowed to enter the United States -- under conditions which demonstrate appropriate respect for the dignity of such officials -- and to meet with U.S. officials, including officials from the Department of State and the Department of Defense and other cabinet agencies.
In his statement introducing the legislation, Rubio underscored that "the legislation is important, especially as China attempts to block Taiwan's participation in international organizations."
"America should keep strengthening our relationship with Taiwan's vibrant democracy, including by encouraging high-level visits between Taiwanese and American officials in our respective capitals," said Rubio, a long-term supporter of Taiwan.
A member of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, Rubio met Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (???) in Miami on June 24, 2016, when Tsai was on her first overseas trip after assuming office on May 20 that year.
Rubio first proposed the bill in the Senate in September last year, but it failed to pass before the 114th Congress ended on Jan. 3.
Similar legislation was initiated by Representative Steve Chabot with co-sponsorship from Ed Royce and Brad Sherman in the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 13. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
In his comments, Peter Chen (???), president of the Washington D.C-based Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), described the Senate bill as an important signal that suggests the current communication channels between Taiwan and the U.S. are out of date and insufficient to maintain regional peace and stability.
The U.S. should demonstrate more its support for democratic countries if it wishes to strengthen and maintain democratic development in the Asia-Pacific region, Chen said.
FAPA is a non-government organization devoted to promoting U.S-Taiwan relations and U.S-Taiwan security in East Asia.
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.
China has stopped official dialogue with Taiwan since Tsai of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party became president.
Also after Tsai refused to heed its calls to recognize the "1992 consensus" as the sole foundation for cross-Taiwan Strait exchanges, Beijing stepped up its efforts to prevent Taiwan's participation in international organizations.
The consensus refers to a tacit understanding reached in 1992 between China and Taiwan, which was then under a Kuomintang government, that there is only one China, with both sides free to interpret what that means.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel