Taiwan must keep up
its guard: US defense analyst
By William Lowther / Staff reporter in WASHINGTON
Even though ¡§military-to-military¡¨ relations between Washington and China have
improved dramatically over the past few years, a US expert has warned that
Taiwan must not let its guard down.
¡§While Taiwan¡¦s larger political and economic interests are indeed served by
better US-PRC [People¡¦s Republic of China] relations, that does not mean that
Taiwan can in any way reduce its vigilance or its defensive preparations,¡¨
Richard Fisher, a senior fellow on Asian military affairs at the International
Assessment and Strategy Center, told the Taipei Times.
He was reacting to statements by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for
East Asia David Helvey that the Pentagon and the People¡¦s Liberation Army (PLA)
have turned a page and that military-to-military relations are now reaching an
The Pentagon¡¦s top China policy official, Helvey told Foreign Policy magazine in
a rare on-the-record interview that US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had even
used the hotline telephone recently for a 45-minute conversation with Chinese
Minister of National Defense Chang Wanquan (±`ÉE¥þ), a PLA general.
North Korea¡¦s nuclear ambitions were a major part of that conversation, but
Helvey said they also discussed other issues and a Pentagon source said that
Taiwan was almost certainly one of them.
¡§We¡¦re really looking to expand the use of this hotline just as a mechanism for
direct communication between our senior leaders,¡¨ Helvey said.
A few years ago, when a senior US military official tried to call Beijing on the
hotline, no one picked up the telephone. And following the announcement of major
US arms deals with Taiwan, Beijing has in the past cut off all military to
military contact with the US. However, relations have improved, Helvey said.
¡§The relationship now is probably as good as it¡¦s been in recent memory,¡¨ Helvey
Asked to comment on this situation, Fisher said that the US Department of
Defense had a responsibility to seek ever improving military-to-military
relations with the PLA.
However, ¡§the well-known fact of the matter is that a very small incident, or
even a rhetorical clash, could serve as the umpteenth excuse for China to halt
or diminish military exchanges with Washington,¡¨ he said.
Fisher said that due largely to China¡¦s increasing aggression, there were now
daily chances for such an incident to occur.
¡§As the PLA continues to modernize broadly and rapidly, as detailed in the
latest Pentagon report, peace on the Taiwan Strait will depend even more on
Taiwan¡¦s commitment to its own defense,¡¨ he said.