I HAVE TAKEN THE LIBERTY TO REPRODUCE AN EXTRACT OF THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE CONCERNING THE FUTURE OF TAIWAN:
Should the U.S. be willing to sacrifice Los Angeles for Taipei? It’s horrendous to contemplate, but it’s the kind of question that underlies a simmering debate over U.S. policy toward Taiwan.
As China’s economic and military power grows, and Taiwan’s long-term future remains unclear, that debate deserves a wider airing. The tension, and the stakes, will only increase as the Obama administration undertakes its much-trumpeted “pivot” to Asia.
Taiwan didn’t surface as a big issue in Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Washington. The re- election of Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou, who has downplayed talk of independence and promoted ties with China, has also reduced cross-strait tensions. And the recent U.S. decision to upgrade Taiwan’s F-16s fighter planes rather than sell it newer ones provoked relatively mild heartburn in Beijing.
Nonetheless, the status quo that has prevailed since the U.S. recognition of China in 1979 -- a delicate balance that has supported not just China’s growth, but also the development of a vibrant, democratic Taiwan -- is under threat. China’s military edge over Taiwan is growing, as is the influence of its military on policy and the volatility of Chinese nationalist sentiment. Future U.S. sales to Taiwan of advanced weapons necessary to counter China’s advantage may trigger a harsher reaction.(Under the Taiwan Relations Act that Congress passed in 1979, the U.S. is required to “provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character.”) Meanwhile, as the economic and strategic importance of U.S.-China relations grows, so does the U.S. temptation to advance those ties at Taiwan’s expense.
The challenge is ensuring that the growth of such numbers trumps the growth of others, like the number of Chinese missiles (now more than 1,200) aimed at Taiwan. On the U.S. side, the answer is not legislation now before Congress that stipulates flying the U.S. flag outside the office of the “American Institute” in Taipei and Senate confirmation of its director. Nor does the solution lie in lawmakers mandating the sales of specific aircraft types -- impulses driven partly by commercial considerations of the members of Congress with military contractors in their districts and states. Taiwan may not be willing to meet its own defense spending targets, but it knows that its status as the fourth-largest purchaser of U.S. arms can buy it congressional clout.
In addition to sticking by the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. can advance its principles by making headway on some mutually beneficial measures. It should speed the review of Taiwan’s entry into the Visa Waiver Program, which will enable Taiwanese business travelers and tourists to enter the U.S. without a visa. P
The most important step the U.S. could take, however, would be to reconsider its hands-off attitude toward resolving cross- strait tensions. This no-mediation principle is enshrined in the catechism of U.S. China policy -- the so-called “Six Assurances” that President Ronald Reagan offered to Taipei in 1982. But it essentially leaves the U.S. hostage to Chinese and Taiwanese behavior, whether a dangerous Chinese buildup of forces, a future move toward independence by Taiwan, or even a blithe assumption on the part of the Taiwanese that the status quo can continue indefinitely. In the past, the U.S. has declared its support for confidence-building measures between the militaries of Taiwan and China. Why stop there? The U.S. could suggest a framework for the militaries to pursue -- things like operational military hotlines and maritime safety protocols, perhaps facilitated by Singapore, which has used such measures to ease tensions with its neighbors.