The Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday approved unanimously a compromise statement of U.S. support for the well-being of Taiwan, then adopted the Carter administration's legislation establishing a new legal basis for U.S.-Taiwanese relations.
Earlier the committee voted 10 to 4 against an amendment offered by Sen. Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.) that would have substantially strengthened the statement of support for Taiwan.
Percy proposed a declaration that "any effort to resolve the Taiwan issue by other than peaceful means" would be considered "a threat to the security interests of the United States."
Administration officials and senators who backed the president's approach to normalization of relations with Peking expressed satisfaction with the outcome.
The final measure passed by the committee goes much further than the administration originally hoped in stating U.S. interest in preserving the status quo on Taiwan, despite recognition of Peking and theoretical acceptance of Peking's sovereignty over all of China, including Taiwan.
A compromise on this issue was produced by committee Chairman Frank Church (D-Idaho) with the assistance of Sen. Jacob K. Javits (N.Y.), the ranking Republican. It says the United States will "maintain its capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security or social or economic system of the people on Taiwan."
The new legislation also declares that any use of force against Taiwan would be "a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States."
President Carter has taken the position that a statement of this kind is not necessary, but it quickly became apparent last month that a majority of senators thought otherwise. The administration came to accept the inevitability of some legislative language in support of Taiwan, and eventually consulted closly with Church and his staff as they developed the final compromise language.
The Chinese government in Peking has not commented on this move in Congress, and the administration presumes it will accept th Foreign Relations Committee's language.
Church has predicted that the full Senate will approve the committee bill. The House Foreign Affairs Committee has been working on a similar measure.
In pressing for his stronger statement, Percy argued that "we have to stand for something," and that the United States should state directly that it would regard an attack on Taiwan as a threat to U.S. security. "The Chinese invasion of Vietnam has made it even more imperative that the Chinese understand... our concern for Taiwan," Percy said.
Church, Javits and others disputed this view. They argued that the bill's language was a clear enough message to Peking, and that the Percy proposal would reduce U.S. flexibility in the event of future hostility between the mainland and Taiwan.
The administration bill approved yesterday establishes an "institute" -- described as nongovernmental although it will be fully financed by the government and staffed by government employes on temporary leave from their normal posts -- to conduct U.S. relations with Taiwan.
The committee stretched this fiction further yesterday by adding an amendment stipulating that representatives of the Taiwanese equivalent to this institute serving in the United States should be granted priileges and immunities reserved for official diplomats.
The committee also agree on a definition of the term "people on Taiwan," the administration's euphemism for the entity there. Said the committee, this term "shall mean and include the governing authority on Taiwan, recognized by the U.S. prior to Jan. 1, 1979 as the Republic of China, it agencies, instrumentalities and political subdivisions..."
Meanwhile yesterday, Gen. David C. Jones, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said after a closed-door session with the Senate panel that the terms of the U.S. recognition of China had met the military chiefs' basic concerns about the security of Taiwan. Jones said the Joint Chiefs supported normalization of relations with Peking in the interests of peace and security in the region.