George W. Bush signed S.2092 into law on Monday, re-affirming the US commitment to obtaining Taiwan a foothold in the World Health Organization, which was just another US presidential seal of endorsement on a roadmap his administration has followed over the years.
"The United States has expressed publicly its firm support for Taiwan's observer status and will continue to do so," Bush announced on Monday.
This is not the first time he has signed his name to a document in support of Taiwan's WHO ambition. But this new bill "authorizes the Secretary of State to initiate a plan" to obtain observer status for Taiwan at the World Health Assembly, according to a statement by the US State Department press secretary on Monday.
The US President knows what it means to Beijing and Taipei. Each and every time Washington cheered Chen Shui-bian on, Beijing reminded the US of its proclaimed commitment to the "one-China" policy.
So this time Bush resorted to his pet tactic -- he pre-empted, obviously to deprive Beijing of that handle.
"The Executive shall construe the Act to be consistent with the 'one-China' policy of the United States, which remains unchanged," he stated.
Taiwan has cited the observer status held by the Vatican and Palestine to legitimize its own bid, ignoring its different international legal status as a territory under the sovereignty of a full member of both the United Nations and the WHO.
The matter could be a lot simpler if it was solely about public health. But the United States is well aware, as every country is, that Taiwan's Chen Shui-bian is exploiting the humanitarian concerns surrounding the WHO to advance his political ambition and steal international "recognition" of the island's "independence" from the mainland.
A US State Department spokesperson once declared that "US policy is to support Taiwan's membership in international organizations where statehood is not an issue. In those organizations in which it cannot be a member, we support finding ways for Taiwan's voice to be heard."
Statehood is obviously an issue at both the WHO and WHA. And there is plenty of technical guarantees in place under the current WHO framework for Taiwan's voice to be heard and its concerns addressed. It is the artificial political barricade the Taiwan authorities have erected that prevents the two sides of the Taiwan Straits from normal exchanges in public health. That is part of Chen's ruse of self-injury to solicit sympathy.
Taiwan has been on the US agenda for decades because it is of strategic importance to the country.
But considering the tricky political climate in the Straits, Bush's move brews disastrous potential.
No matter whether Washington is loyal to its promise of "one-China" or not, and no matter whether the signal is clear or ambivalent, Bush's sponsorship of Taiwan's WHO bid will inspire more desperate stunts on Chen's part.
In that case, the US president is dragging his country into a trap designed by Chen, whom Time magazine appropriately called "the calculating lawyer who tests the waters."
Bush should have known his signing the Act has invited strong opposition from China.
It would not be impossible that Washington will have to face a more serious situation across the Taiwan Straits.
(China Daily June 16, 2004)