Senate Taiwan Caucus resurfaces in time for Hu visit

Senate Taiwan Caucus resurfaces in time for Hu visit

The leaders of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, a bipartisan group of senators in favor of strong U.S. support for the island’s security needs, are preparing to send a letter to President Obama urging him to make clear to Chinese President Hu Jintao during next week’s summit that the United States will continue to sell weapons to Taipei, despite Beijing’s complaints.

The issue of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which led Beijing to cut off U.S.-China military-to-military ties in February 2010, is sure to come up next week due to reports that another U.S. weapons package to Taiwan may be in the works.

"As you prepare for the arrival of President Hu Jintao of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), we urge you to remain mindful of the vital security interests of Taiwan. Taiwan is a strong democracy, a close trading partner, and an historic ally of the United States," reads the letter, led by caucus co-chairs Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and James Inhofe (R-OK).

"As faithful friends of Taiwan in the U.S. Senate, we ask that during President Hu’s visit, you emphasize that the United States’ position on Taiwan remains clear: the United States will support Taiwan’s security, and continue to provide Taiwan with defensive arms."

A note circulated to Senate offices on Thursday said that the goal is to get all 100 senators to sign the letter. Hu has a meeting with congressional leaders in both parties scheduled for Jan. 20.

In Congress, caucuses are often loose groups of members who have decided they generally want to appear active on an issue they agree is important. The Congressional Taiwan Caucus was established in 2002 and has 141 members. The Senate Taiwan Caucus began in 2003 and has 24 members. The Senate group’s most recent press release was put out in 2004.

But although the Taiwan caucus has been silent for years, it isn’t missing the opportunity of Hu’s final visit to Washington before stepping down as China’s leader to signal congressional support for Taiwan. Menendez is the third-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Inhofe is the second-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"The PRC has engaged in a large scale military build-up over the past few years and has not abandoned the threat of force, with an estimated 1,000 active missiles pointed directly at Taiwan," the letter stated. "For these reasons, it is of utmost importance that President Hu understands the United States’ unwavering commitment to providing Taiwan with the tools necessary for its self-defense."