John R. Bolton, President Bush's nominee to be undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, was paid $30,000 over three years in the mid-1990s by Taiwan's government for research papers on U.N. membership issues involving Taiwan.
A senior vice president at the American Enterprise Institute, Bolton has long supported U.S. recognition of Taiwan as a separate nation and its return to the United Nations. These positions go further than even earlier Republican administrations and have raised questions among some Democratic lawmakers as to whether he could objectively handle Taiwan issues that come before him, including U.S. arms sales to that country.
Bolton, a lawyer, wrote the papers and testified before Congress in 1994 and 1995 on Taiwan and the U.N. A source close to the State Department said a Justice Department official then told Bolton that he was exempted from registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act because he was "providing legal services."
Bolton has said he will not speak directly to the press while his nomination is pending. At his March 29 confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he said the payments "have been disclosed and vetted in the ethics clearance process . . . [T]he Office of Government Ethics, [and] the State Department Legal Advisor's office have imposed no ethical constraint on my decisions on these [Taiwan] matters."
The first payment of $10,000, which he received in May 1994, was for writing the first of three papers on U.N. issues related to Taiwan, he told the Senate panel. "They were in the nature of research and historical analyses," Bolton said, "and I submitted them and was paid for them."
Nearly two months after that first payment, Bolton was invited to appear at a hearing before two subcommittees of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Bolton, who had been assistant secretary of state for international organizations during the Reagan administration, opened his statement by saying, "I believe that the United States should support the efforts of the Republic of China on Taiwan to become a full member of the United Nations."
His statement contained much of the same material that he had provided the Taiwanese, according to a source close to the State Department.
When Bolton was asked recently about his 1994 testimony, the source said Bolton insisted that he had "never been paid by anybody for any testimony," and that his 1994 appearance and payment for the paper were "completely separate transactions."
Toward the end of his all-day confirmation hearing, Bolton discussed the Taiwan payments but did not mention his earlier House testimony. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a member of the foreign relations panel, said last week he had not known of Bolton's House committee appearances. He said they "raise a number of very serious questions that have to be answered before anything further is done about his nomination."
Marc A. Thiessen, spokesman for the Senate committee, said: "We know all about [Bolton's fees from Taiwan and House testimony] and it raises no concerns with the committee. He did absolutely nothing wrong. He did no lobbying for Taiwan."
Bolton's appearance at the 1994 hearing had been requested by Republicans on the House subcommittees, according to committee sources. The hearing came three weeks after a New York Times article reported that Taipei had "begun to sound out countries in Europe, Asia and the Western Hemisphere on whether they would support the country's readmission to the United Nations."
Bolton received a second payment of $10,000 for a paper later in 1994. In it, he answered questions raised by the Taiwanese about how their case for readmission could be presented to the U.N.
On Aug. 3, 1995, in response to an invitation, Bolton again testified on Taiwan and the U.N., this time before the full House International Relations Committee.
The third paper, delivered in 1996 for another $10,000, dealt with the status of observer states in the U.N.
At the hearing last month, Kerry questioned Bolton's view that the United States should recognize Taiwan as an independent state. "If you happen to have a belief system that suggests that Taiwan should be an independent nation . . . that may have a profound impact," Kerry said. Asked if he believes in the one-China policy that includes Taiwan -- currently U.S. policy -- Bolton responded: "It's not my function to advocate diplomatic recognition for Taiwan, and it would be inappropriate for me to" do so.
As undersecretary, Bolton would have a voice in U.S. policy with regard to arms sales to Taiwan. But he indicated to the senators that he "would be constrained" by "explicit congressional statutory mandates."