On December 15, 1978, President Jimmy Carter announced the U.S. decision to sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan in order to recognize the PRC. What kind of relationship the United States would maintain with Taiwan thereafter was unclear. The U.S. Embassy in Taipei would have to close within a few months. What, if anything, would replace it? Washington gave the prescribed one-year notice that it would terminate the U.S.-Taiwan mutual defense treaty. Would the United States continue to play a role in safeguarding Taiwan’s security?
Accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to the ROC Leonard Unger (left,) Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher (center) calls on Taiwan officials following President Carter’s announcement of derecognition.
WHAT IS THE TRA?
The Taiwan Relations Act is legislation passed by the U.S. Congress to authorize the “continuation of commercial, cultural, and other relations between the people of the United States and the people on Taiwan.” The law called for creation of the American Institute in Taiwan to represent U.S. interests in the absence of formal diplomatic relations. It also reaffirmed the U.S. government’s stake in maintaining peace and stability in the region, created a legal basis for the U.S. to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character, and requires the U.S. to maintain the military capacity to respond to threats to Taiwan’s security.
The TRA was enacted by Congress in March 1979 and signed into law by President Carter on April 10, 1979 and was deemed as having taken effect as of January 1, 1979.