Chinese Vice Premier Teng Hsiao-ping yesterday paid court to Congress that appears increasingly likely to qualify the normalization of SinoAmerican relations with a formal assertion of U.S. interest in the future of Taiwan.
Teng's visit apparently left a good impression of the diminutive leader in both House and Senate. But emerging majorities in both houses appear determined to hold Teng in some formal way to his general pledge to resolve the Taiwan question peacefully.
There have been indications that the Chinese government may acquiesce to some congressional action that would declare U.S. interest in preserving a Taiwanese autonomy and opposing any forcible reunification of Taiwan and China.
Perhaps the clearest signal of this, it was learned, came at the home of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) last Thursday night.
Last week, Kennedy and Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) proposed a relatively mild congressional resolution stating that an armed attack against Taiwan would be "a danger to the stability and peace of Asia," On Thursday night. the Chinese ambassador in Washington, Chai Tse-min, attended a dinner party at Kennedy's home, and the ambassador did not object to the Kennedy-Cranston resolution, according to informed sources.
An aide to Kennedy declined to comment on the dinner party.
President Carter told a news conference on Friday that he thought any congressional resolution on Taiwan would be unnecessary, and he threatened to veto any legislative language that he thought contradicted the terms his administration negotiated for establishing full relations with China.
But administration officials, it was learned, have agreed among themselves that some congressional action is probably inevitable, and that the Kennedy-Cranston resolution is the most desirable of those proposed so far. Some officials are described as confident that something like the Kennedy-Cranston resolution -- which does not call for any specific U.S. action in the event China did attact Tawan -- can be passed in both houses. Other officials are said to be worried that congressional majorities will try to go further than this formulation.
According to many members of Congress, there is a need for some kind of political protection if they vote to support Cater's normalization policies. A resolution demonstrating congressional interest in Taiwan's future might porvide that protection.
However, some sources questioned the usefulness of "protection" offered by two Senate liberals like Kennedy and Cranston. Some members might like a gesture with a more moderate appearance.
Sen. Frank Chruch (D-Idaho), the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, yesterday repeated his intention to add language to pending legislation asserting the U.S. interest in Taiwan's future. Some Senate sources expect Church to urge the full committee to adopt language similar to the Kennedy-Cranston resolution, but without labeling it as the work of the two liberals.
Many members of both houses have spoken publicly in favor of some new legislative language on Taiwan. An obvious vehicle for it is the bill Carter sent to Capitol Hill last week that would alter all existing legislation pertaining to Taiwanese U.S. relations to allow them to continue on an unofficial basis.
The Carter administration annoyed many in Congress by springing its announcement of full diplomatic recog-Congress and public last month. The senate had specifically asked to be consulted before this step was taken, but Carter chose to surprise.
Many resolutions on the Taiwan issue have been introduced since Congress reconvened. Some call for maintaining some sort of official, government-to-government relations with Taiwan after normalization of relations with Peking -- something the Chinese government has ruled out.
Other resolutions call for the United States to defend Taiwan in case of an attack, or to cut off relations with Peking.