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Congressional Research Service, Taiwan: The 'Three No's' - Congressional-Administration Differences and U.S. Policy Issues, Oct. 1, 1998

This report by the non-partisan Congressional Research Service was written by Robert Sutter. The full report is available in pdf format at the link below. It was written following President Bill Clinton's trip earlier in the year to China.
October 1, 1998

The controversy between the Clinton Administration and congressional critics over President Clinton's public affirmation in Shanghai on June 30, 1998 of the so-called "three no's" regarding U.S. policy toward Taiwan is the latest episode in over 20 years of arguments between the Administration and the Congress over appropriate U.S. policy in the U.S.-People's Republic of China (PRC)-Taiwan relationship. The "three no's" involve U.S. non-support for: Taiwan independence; one China, one Taiwan; and Taiwan representation in international organizations where statehood is a requirement.

Administration supporters argue that the "three no's" are consistent with past U.S. statements, and do little damage to U.S. interests in Taiwan while discouraging movement in Taiwan toward political independence that might prompt a hostile PRC response. In contrast, many in Congress viewed the President as sacrificing U.S. interests and those of Taiwan for the sake of a smooth summit meeting in China. In response, they criticized the "three no's" and proposed resolutions in the Senate and House reaffirming support for Taiwan. The resolutions ( S.Con.Res. 107 ; S.Con.Res. 30 ; and H.Con.Res. 301 ) passed in the weeks following the President's China trip.

Sometimes acrimonious congressional-executive debate over the appropriate balance in U.S. policy toward Beijing and Taipei dates back at least to the 1970s, before the normalization of U.S. relations with the PRC and the cut off of official U.S. relations with Taiwan. The debate results from the executive branch's tendency to give priority to relations with Beijing over relations with Taiwan, and the Congress' tendency to be more receptive to Taiwan concerns regardless of PRC sensitivities; from often intense PRC-Taiwan competition for international, especially U.S., support; and from ambiguity in U.S. policy which appears at times to tilt in favor of PRC-backed positions but concurrently also strongly supports Taiwan.

As Congress considers whether and how to further adjust U.S. policy in the wake of President Clinton's statement of the "three no's," it can consider sets of questions in key areas of policy concern, notably: the impact of the President's "three no's" declaration; the consequences of PRC-Taiwan rivalry for U.S. and other international support; prospects for parallel U.S. engagement with both Beijing and Taipei; the PRC-Taiwan military balance; the U.S. role in promoting PRC-Taiwan talks to ease tensions and promote better relations; and the U.S. policy approach toward Taiwan self- determination.