2023-0209: Secretary Blinken Urged to Visit Taiwan; Taiwan Rated Freest Country in Asia

U.S. Lawmakers Urge Secretary Blinken to Visit Taiwan

On February 1, nine members of the U.S. House of Representatives called on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to make a stopover in Taiwan on his then-planned trip to China from February 5 to 6, in keeping with the spirit of the Taiwan Travel Act and honor what Blinken called a “rock solid” commitment from the Biden administration to Taiwan.

The request was made in a joint letter to Blinken, signed by Republican Representatives Tom Tiffany, Scott Perry, Dan Crenshaw, Andy Ogles, Burgess Owens, Nancy Mace, Scott DesJarlais, Byron Donalds, and Earl L. “Buddy” Carter.

If Blinken visits Taiwan, it would “send a clear message that the United States strongly opposes China’s reckless military provocations in the region — actions which President Biden has described as ‘coercive’ and a threat to regional peace and stability,” the representatives said in the letter.

A visit to Taiwan by Blinken would be “consistent with the congressional intent of the Taiwan Travel Act, which made it the express policy of the United States to encourage high-ranking U.S. executive branch officials to visit Taiwan and meet with their counterparts,” they wrote.

It would also be an opportunity for Blinken to “publicly address growing concerns about recent delays in the delivery of U.S. weapons systems to Taiwan,” they added.

“Some of these systems are related to arms sales that were approved as long ago as 2019 and include everything from F-16s to other asymmetric weapons that are critical to Taiwan’s defensive capabilities,” they wrote.

The representatives asked Blinken to consider their request in the interest of improving bilateral ties between Taiwan and the United States.

Blinken’s planned visit to China would be the first by an incumbent U.S. secretary of state since October 2018.

Nevertheless, at a press brief on February 3, a U.S. State Department official said that Blinken has put off the visit to China after the discovery of a Chinese spy balloon in U.S. airspace.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202302030011
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2023/02/04/2003793691

Taiwan Rated Freest Country in Asia in 2022 Human Freedom Index

Taiwan was rated the freest country in Asia — two places ahead of Japan, 16 ahead of South Korea, and 138 in front of China — according to the 2022 Human Freedom Index (HFI) published on January 31, which ranked Taiwan 14th out of 165 jurisdictions around the world.

The report found a strong link between freedom and democracy, and said that freedom plays a critical role in people’s well-being.

The index, jointly published by the Cato Institute and Fraser Institute, ranked the level of freedom in countries and territories based on 83 indicators spread across 12 categories.

They are rule of law; security and safety; movement; religion; association, assembly and civil society; expression and information; relationships; size of government; legal system and property rights; sound money; freedom to trade internationally; and regulation.

Taiwan had the most freedom when it comes to religion (scoring 9.9 on a scale of 1-10), followed by security and safety (9.5), relationships (9.4), and association, assembly and civil society (9.4).

The nation scored a perfect mark of 10 in the indicators for freedom of assembly, same-sex relationships, the freedom to “divorce,” the absence of “female genital mutilation,” the absence of “direct attacks on the press” — referring to members of the press being killed or jailed — and the freedom to own foreign currency.

Meanwhile, the categories in which Taiwan could make improvements are the freedom to trade internationally (scoring 6.3), legal system and property rights (7.2), and the size of government (7.6).

According to the institutes, the index is the most comprehensive freedom index, covering 98.1 percent of the world’s population.

[1] Cato Institute: https://www.cato.org/human-freedom-index/2022
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202302010020
[3] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2023/02/02/2003793551