The President’s hesitation to move on Taiwan may be related to his conversation Monday, September 22, with Chinese President Hu Jintao in which the two leaders discussed how China could help with the current “financial turmoil” on Wall Street and “particularly” how the two leaders could “properly handle the Taiwan question.”
Why would the White House whip-saw a loyal ally and one of America’s three most important security partners in East Asia? Perhaps because of its increasingly sanguine view of China’s record and potential as a security partner. Chinese “help” with North Korea’s “dismantlement” of its nuclear weapons program—now being reassembled—has perhaps persuaded the Administration of the value of being China’s friend.Tkacik also comments on speculation in Washington....
A complementary view in Washington is that Taiwan simply cannot defend itself, even with the submarines, missile defense systems, anti-submarine aircraft, and so forth included in the current package, so it should not even try. This line of reasoning suggests that Taiwan adopt a “porcupine strategy” of mining all 180 miles of beaches on its west coast with surf-zone sea mines and weapons designed for waters less than 10 feet deep, then engage whatever invaders manage to actually land on those beaches with truck-mounted Harpoon missiles and assorted other last-ditch weapons. These are weapons that will not offend China, so the U.S. could sell these weapons without harming its relations with China.
Like many commentators, Tkacik notes that freeze violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). Another point he makes is that it grossly violates Reagan's six assurances, one of which assures that the US will not hold consultations with China prior to selling weapons to Taiwan, and the other which promises that the US will keep Taiwan in parity with China -- and that the determination of weapons sales to Taiwan will be based solely on the PRC threat to the island.
During the Chen years many US analysts said that Chen was violating the status quo. One or two outside the Administration observed that China's violations of the status quo were far more serious and dangerous to the US-allied democracies around China. Almost no one has pointed out that the Bush Administration has now thoroughly violated the status quo -- by tilting toward China and by refusing to sell weapons to Taiwan: the US is now the chief violator of the status quo. Tkacik points out the danger for Taiwan of Bush's policy: the next President will be asked to continue it:
Senior Bush Administration officials, current and former, say privately it is a safe bet that Chinese President Hu will pocket President Bush’s Taiwan arms freeze and confront the next U.S. President to maintain the Bush “baseline.” The Chinese will threaten the next Administration with “serious consequences” if the U.S. “backslides” on the issue.
Former US official Randall Shriver observed in his appearance here several months ago that bot the McCain and Obama campaigns have said that they will sell arms to Taiwan, but they would prefer that the Bush Administration do it. It's long past time for the Bush Administration to grow up on this issue, and to nurture the status quo, instead of making permanent concessions for temporary gains.
Tkacik points out that current President Ma Ying-jeou desperately needs the sales to shore up his sagging position vis-a-vis China -- it's funny now to read things like this just-released CSIS report on confidence building across the Taiwan Strait -- funny because China has so thoroughly refused to cooperate with Ma. China could hardly have a bigger fan than Ma Ying-jeou and his KMT, yet it has given nothing to Taiwan. As friend of Taiwan Nat Bellocchi comments today in the Taipei Times: "...there is nothing that suggests Beijing will soften its line on obstructing international participation for Taiwan, even in isolated cases." Let that be a lesson to those out there who think that China will be accomodating to its friends.
ALSO: This piece at Taiwan News that observes that Taiwan is not Georgia.
We hope that the next U.S. president continues dialogue with China not to help the PRC squash Taiwan's democracy but to persuade Beijing to cease to block the participation of a democratic and peaceful Taiwan in the global community and realize that maintaining Taiwan as a democratic "lighthouse" is critical to ensuring the fostering of both peace and democracy in Asia.and the Presidential office is hopeful the sales will still happen. It's a bureaucratic possibility, but just barely....