News | June 06, 2014

Firestein's Hill Testimony: A Fresh Approach to Reducing Cross-Strait Military Tension

EWI’s David Firestein presented central findings from Threading the Needle: Proposals for U.S. and Chinese Actions on Arms Sales to Taiwan—EWI’s groundbreaking report on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan—at a Hill hearing on June 5, 2014. The hearing, “Recent Developments in China’s Relations with Taiwan and North Korea,” was hosted by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission

Firestein, a Perot fellow and vice president for the Strategic Trust-Building Initiative and Track 2 Diplomacy, spoke during Panel II on Cross-Strait Military and Security Issues. He noted that the current legal and policy architecture governing U.S. actions toward Taiwan “has created a context within which Taiwan itself, China-Taiwan relations, and U.S.-China relations have been able to develop and blossom despite profound differences between the sides over several major issues.”

However, he stressed the need for a new approach to implementing these policies in a manner that would keep pace with developments in the region and help ease cross-Strait military tensions. “As deeply rooted as it is, and given the trajectory generated by existing policies as currently implemented, this fundamental state of tension could well outlive most of us in this room,” he predicted. Firestein recommended incremental adjustments in U.S. annual arms deliveries to Taiwan—ideally at the same time that China withdraws a portion of its short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan—and notifications to Congress of such arms sales on a regular, predictable and normalized schedule. He argued that these adjustments could be made while maintaining policies in place for U.S.-Taiwan relations, continuing the sale of defensive arms to Taiwan in the future and continuing to encourage and commit to promoting relations with Taiwan within the constraints of U.S.-China policy. He made it clear that there could be no progress without the participation of the U.S., China and Taiwan.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) was created by the U.S. Congress in October 2000. The Commission’s legislative mandate is to monitor, investigate and submit to Congress an annual report on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China. The Commission provides recommendations to Congress for legislative and administrative action. 

Click here for full text of testimony and video (Panel II begins at 2:11:48).

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Oral testimony transcript

Q & A transcript