9. Statement by Ronald Reagan 1

Ten days ago George Bush and I met with you here in Los Angeles on the occasion of his departure for Japan and China, a trip he undertook at my request.2 As we stressed at the time, the purpose of the trip was to provide for a candid exchange of views with leaders in both countries on a wide range of international topics of mutual interest. Ambassador Bush returned last evening, and has reported his findings in detail.

We are both very pleased with the results of his extensive discussions. In a series of meetings with distinguished leaders in Japan, including Prime Minister Suzuki, Former Prime Ministers Fukuda, Kishi and Miki, Foreign Minister Itoh and Minister of International Trade and Industry Tanaka, he had the opportunity to hear their views and recommendations concerning the future of U.S.-Japanese relations.

Our Republican Party Platform stresses that Japan will remain a pillar of our policy for Asia, and a Reagan-Bush Administration will work hard to insure that U.S.-Japanese relations are maintained [Page 30] in excellent condition, based on close consultation and mutual understanding.

Japan’s role in the process of insuring peace in Asia is a crucial one, and we must reinforce our ties with this close ally. Japan is our second most important trading partner, and we are her first. We have close ties in other fields, too. A most important example is the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty which recently marked its twentieth anniversary.3

Understanding the Japanese perspective is important for the success of American policy. As Ambassador Bush will tell you in detail, he found Japanese leaders unanimous in their view that the United States must be a strong, reliable, leading partner.

I appreciate receiving their views, and I am grateful to them for the courtesies extended to Ambassador Bush. I would also like to express my appreciation to, and regard for, U.S. Ambassador Mike Mansfield, who also extended many courtesies.

Of equal importance was Ambassador Bush’s trip to China, where he held a series of high-level meetings. As I said on August 16, “we have an obvious interest in developing our relationship with China, an interest that goes beyond trade and cultural ties. It is an interest that is fundamental to a Reagan-Bush Administration.”

The meetings in Beijing provided for extensive exchanges of views. George has reported to me in great detail the points of similarity and agreement, as well as those of dissimilarity and disagreement. Since the objective of the trip was to have just such an exchange without necessarily reaching agreement, I believe that the objective was reached.

We now have received an updated, first-hand of China’s views, and the Chinese leaders have heard our point of view.

While in Beijing, Ambassador Bush and Richard Allen met at length with Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping, Foreign Minister Huang Hua, as well as with other top foreign policy experts and military leaders. I appreciate the courtesies which the Chinese leaders extended to our party, and I also wish to thank U.S. Ambassador Leonard Woodcock for his kind assistance.

We now maintain full and friendly diplomatic relations with China. This relationship began only a few years ago, and it is one which we should develop and strengthen in the years ahead. It is a delicate relationship, and the Reagan-Bush Administration will handle it with care [Page 31] and respect, with due regard for our own vital interests in the world generally, and in the Pacific region specifically.

China and the United States have a common interest in maintaining peace so that our nations can grow and prosper. Our two-way trade has now reached approximately $3.5 billion annually, and China’s program of modernization depends in a major way on Western and U.S. technology.

Along with many other nations, we and China share a deep concern about the pace and scale of the Soviet military buildup. Chinese leaders agree with Japanese leaders that the United States must be a strong and vigorous defender of the peace, and they specifically favor us bolstering our defenses and our alliances.

It is quite clear that we do not see eye to eye on Taiwan. Thus, this is an appropriate time for me to state our position on this subject.

I’m sure that the Chinese leaders would place no value on our relations with them if they thought we would break commitments to them if a stronger power were to demand it. Based on my long-standing conviction that America can provide leadership and command respect only if it keeps its commitments to its friends, large and small, a Reagan-Bush Administration would observe these five principles in dealing with the China situation.

Guiding Principles for the Far East

First, U.S.-Chinese relations are important to American as well as Chinese interests. Our partnership should be global and strategic. In seeking improved relations with the People’s Republic of China, I would extend the hand of friendship to all Chinese. In continuing our relations, which date from the historic opening created by President Nixon, I would continue the process of expanding trade, scientific and cultural ties.4

Second, I pledge to work for peace, stability and the economic growth of the Western Pacific area in cooperation with Japan, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan.

Third, I will cooperate and consult with all countries of the area in a mutual effort to stand firm against aggression or search for hegemony which threaten the peace and stability of the area.

Fourth, I intend that United States relations with Taiwan will develop in accordance with the law of our land, the Taiwan Relations [Page 32] Act.5 This legislation is the product of our democratic process, and is designed to remedy the defects of the totally inadequate legislation proposed by Jimmy Carter.

By accepting China’s three conditions for “normalization,”6 Jimmy Carter made concessions that Presidents Nixon and Ford had steadfastly refused to make. I was and am critical of his decision because I believe he made concessions that were not necessary and not in our national interest. I felt that a condition of normalization—by itself a sound policy choice—should have been the retention of a liaison office on Taiwan of equivalent status to the one which we had earlier established in Beijing. With a persistent and principled negotiating position, I believe that normalization could ultimately have been achieved on this basis. But that is behind us now. My present concern is to safeguard the interests of the United States and to enforce the law of the land.

It was the timely action of the Congress, reflecting the strong support of the American people for Taiwan, that forced the changes in the inadequate bill which Mr. Carter proposed. Clearly, the Congress was unwilling to buy the Carter plan, which it believed would have jeopardized Taiwan’s security.

This Act, designed by the Congress to provide adequate safeguards for Taiwan’s security and well being, also provides the official basis for our relations with our long-time friend and ally. It declares our official policy to be one of maintaining peace and promoting extensive, close, and friendly relations between the United States and the seventeen million people on Taiwan as well as the one billion people on the China mainland. It specifies that our official policy considers any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means a threat to peace and of “grave concern” to the United States.

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And, most important, it spells out our policy of providing defensive weapons to Taiwan and mandates the United States to maintain the means to “resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion” which threaten the security or the social or economic system of Taiwan.

This Act further spells out, in great detail, how the President of the United States, our highest elected official, shall conduct relations with Taiwan, leaving to his discretion the specific methods of achieving policy objectives. The Act further details how our official personnel (including diplomats) are to administer United States relations with Taiwan through the American Institute in Taiwan. It specifies that for that purpose they are to resign for the term of their duty in Taiwan and then be reinstated to their former agencies of the U.S. government with no loss of status, seniority or pension rights.

The intent of the Congress is crystal clear. Our official relations with Taiwan will be funded by Congress with public monies, the expenditure of which will be audited by the Comptroller General of the United States; and Congressional oversight will be performed by two standing Committees of the Congress.

You might ask what I would do differently. I would not pretend, as Carter does, that the relationship we now have with Taiwan, enacted by our Congress, is not official.

I am satisfied that this Act provides an official and adequate basis for safeguarding our relationship with Taiwan, and I pledge to enforce it. But I will eliminate petty practices of the Carter Administration which are inappropriate and demeaning to our Chinese friends on Taiwan. For example, it is absurd and not required by the Act that our representatives are not permitted to meet with Taiwanese officials in their offices and ours. I will treat all Chinese officials with fairness and dignity.

I would not impose restrictions which are not required by the Taiwan Relations Act and which contravene its spirit and purpose. Here are other examples of how Carter has gone out of his way to humiliate our friends on Taiwan:

  • Taiwanese officials are ignored at senior levels of the U.S. government.
  • The Taiwan Relations Act specifically requires that the Taiwanese be permitted to keep the same number of offices in this country as they had before. Previously, Taiwan had 14 such offices. Today there are but nine.
  • Taiwanese military officers are no longer permitted to train in the United States or to attend service academies.
  • Recently the Carter Administration attempted to ban all imports from Taiwan labeled “Made in the Republic of China,” but [Page 34] was forced to rescind the order after opposition began to mount in the Congress.
  • The Carter Administration unilaterally imposed a one-year moratorium on arms supplies7 even though the Act specifies that Taiwan shall be provided with arms of a defense character.
  • The Carter Administration abrogated the Civil Aviation Agreement with Taiwan, which had been in effect since 1947, in response to demands from the People’s Republic of China.

I recognize that the People’s Republic of China is not pleased with the Taiwan Relations Act which the United States Congress insisted on as the official basis for our relations with Taiwan. This was made abundantly clear to Mr. Bush, and, I’m told, is clear to the Carter Administration. But it is the law of our land.

Fifth, as President I will not accept the interference of any foreign power in the process of protecting American interests and carrying out the laws of our land. To do otherwise would be a dereliction of my duty as President.

It is my conclusion that the strict observance of these five principles will be in the best interests of the United States, the People’s Republic of China and the people on Taiwan.

The specific implementation of these duties will have to await the results of the election in November, but in deciding what to do I will take into account the views of the People’s Republic of China as well as Taiwan. It will be my firm intention to preserve the interests of the United States, and as President I will choose the methods by which this shall best be accomplished.

  1. Source: Reagan Library, White House Office of Speechwriting, Research Office, 1980 Campaign File, Campaign and Pre-Presidential Speeches, 1979–1981, 08/25/1980 Statement on China/Taiwan. No classification marking. Reagan delivered the statement at a news conference held at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel, in which Bush, the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, also participated. (Howell Raines, “Reagan, Conceding Misstatements, Abandons Plan on Taiwan Office,” New York Times, August 26, 1980, pp. A1, B7)
  2. See Howell Raines, “Reagan Denies Plan to Answer Carter: Says He Will Not Defend Himself Against ‘Distorted Charges’,” New York Times, pp. 1, 22, and Katharine Macdonald, “Reagan Acts to Reassure Peking on Ties,” Washington Post, p. A4; both August 17, 1980. Documentation regarding the Carter administration’s views concerning Bush’s trip is printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XIII, China, Documents 316318. The memoranda of conversation from Bush’s August 21 meeting and James Lilley’s handwritten notes summarizing a second meeting are scheduled for publication in Foreign Relations, 1981–1988, vol. XXVIII, China, 1981–1983.
  3. Reference is to the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, signed in Washington on January 19, 1960. The texts of a joint communiqué, the treaty and supporting documentation, and remarks made during Kishi’s visit to participate in the signing ceremony are printed in Department of State Bulletin, February 8, 1960, pp. 179–201.
  4. Documentation on the “opening” to China and Nixon’s February 1972 visit to Beijing is in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. XVII, China, 1969–1972, and Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, vol. E–13, Documents on China, 1969–1972.
  5. The Taiwan Relations Act (H.R. 2479; P.L. 96–8), which Carter signed into law on April 10, 1979, authorized the establishment of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which allowed the United States to continue to conduct relations with Taiwan. Taiwan would conduct its diplomacy with the United States under the auspices of the Coordination Council for North American Affairs. The Act also maintained various cultural and other links between the two nations. (Congress and the Nation, vol. V, 1977–1980, pp. 65–68) For Carter’s remarks upon signing the bill into law, see Public Papers: Carter, 1979, Book I, pp. 640–641.
  6. Reference is to the “normalization” of relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. In a December 15, 1978, televised address, Carter read the text of a joint communiqué on the establishment of relations between the two nations. For the text of the address, see Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. I, Foundations of Foreign Policy, Document 104.
  7. Documentation on the moratorium is printed in Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XIII, China, Documents 167, 169, and 285.