Up Next



Listen to the voice

US should still stand up for Taiwan

By Paul Lin 林保華
Monday, Jun 30, 2008, Page 8

The US broke its silence on relations with Taiwan when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a press conference stressing that Washington has a strong relationship with Taiwan. This seemed to imply that the US is trying to keep Taiwan’s government from giving up its relationship with the US in exchange for closer ties with China.

Derek Mitchell, an expert in Asian security with the International Security Program (ISP) of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, has said that in terms of future cross-strait relations, China has a much greater responsibility than Taiwan. Mitchell also encouraged President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to speak out against Beijing’s stance on US military sales to Taiwan.

However, the US government still has not taken any substantial action to help Taiwan. On March 25, Douglas Spelman, director of the Taiwan section of the US State Department’s Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, said he had five hopes for the Taiwan Strait, all of which were aimed at encouraging dialogue between China and Taiwan. On the other hand, Ma has been trying hard to get close to China and there have been reports that he has mentioned canceling military purchases from the US.

Apart from problems with Ma’s personality, this issue is complicated by his being forced by those within the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) with vested interests in China. If the US does not get involved very soon, safety and stability across the Taiwan Strait will be jeopardized.

The 23 million people of Taiwan share common ideals with the US, and relations between the two nations are stable. The 58th anniversary of the start of the Korean War passed a few days ago. In that war Taiwan and the US fought together to resist the spread of communism in East Asia. So, it is not only the responsibility, but also in the best interests, of the US to support Taiwan’s moves toward further democratization.

The US should help Taiwan in the following ways:

First, US President George W. Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) spoke with each other via telephone on March 26. In the English transcript of the conversation released by Xinhua news agency, Hu promised to accept the formulation that there is “one China with each side having its own interpretation.” However, in the Chinese transcript, this sentence was changed to “one China.” The US should ask Beijing to make the truth known and clarify the details of the conversation.

It should also be made clear that “one China with each side having its own interpretation” is the bare minimum that Taiwan will accept in terms of sovereignty and that without sovereignty there can be no equality between Taiwan and China. Without sovereignty and equality, Taiwan will not be secure, nor will the Taiwan Strait be stable.

Second, the US should recommence military sales to Taiwan as soon as possible to help maintain Taiwan’s national security. China has nothing to do with whether military sales stay frozen or not, this is simply a matter of US policy. However, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 12 urged the US to permanently stop weapon sales to Taiwan. This was an attempt to damage the “status quo” and challenge US policy on the Taiwan Strait.

Third, before his election, Ma promised that Taiwan’s future would be decided by the 23 million people of Taiwan. Since winning the election, however, he has not dared utter a single word on the matter. Regardless of whether the Republicans or the Democrats win the US presidential election, both parties have made it clear that Taiwan’s future must be acceptable to the Taiwanese people and that their wishes be respected. This is in line with the spirit of a nation founded on human rights like the US.

Therefore, in case Ma does not mention this issue, the US can bring this up with China on Taiwan’s behalf.

Hu has been trying to win favor with Japan lately, with China even being willing to concede its rights to oil fields in the East China Sea to Japan. This maneuver is in fact a small short-term sacrifice aimed at gaining greater long-term advantages. China’s long-term goal is to establish an international “united anti-US front.” This is because the US is a formidable enemy that China must try to isolate internationally.

China’s goal is to disrupt Taiwan-Japan relations. It is also trying to undermine the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the US and Japan. This intention is evident from China’s decision to appoint former ambassador to Japan Wang Yi (王毅) as director of the Taiwan Affairs Office. Therefore, the US must do something to improve its relations with Taiwan to ensure security in East Asia.

Paul Lin is a political commentator based in Taiwan.


Up Next