The study by Kerry Dumbaugh, a specialist in Asian Affairs with the Congressional Research Service (CRS), is entitled Taiwan-US Relations: Developments and Policy Implications.Joh Tkacik, the former US foreign service officer and longtime Taiwan expert, had this to say in a commentary on US Taiwan policy in the Taipei Times today:
Ma’s initiatives are welcomed by many, the study says, for contributing to greater regional stability.
But it adds: “More pessimistic observers see growing PRC [People’s Republic of China]-Taiwan ties eroding US influence, strengthening PRC leverage and, particularly in the face of expanding economic links, jeopardizing Taiwan autonomy and economic security.”
The study says that among Obama’s policy challenges are “decisions on new arms sales to Taiwan, which are anathema to the PRC; how to accommodate requests for visits to the US by President Ma and other senior Taiwan officials; the overall nature of US relations with the Ma government; whether to pursue closer economic ties with Taiwan; what role, if any, Washington should play in cross-strait relations; and, more broadly, what form of defense assurances to offer Taiwan.”
Changes under Ma have led, the study says, to questions about “whether the United States should conduct a reassessment of its Taiwan policy in light of changing circumstances, and what the extent of such a possible reassessment should be.”
“At the very least, some say, the US needs to consider doing another comprehensive review of its Taiwan policy in order to revisit once again the 1979-1980 Taiwan Guidelines that govern US government interactions with Taiwan and with Taiwan officials,” the study says.
“Furthermore, since the 1993-’94 policy review, there have been dramatic developments in Taiwan’s political development. Taiwan has become a fully functioning democracy. In addition, since 1995 the PRC has undertaken a substantial military buildup along the coast opposite Taiwan and in 2005 Beijing adopted the anti-secession law suggesting hostile intent against Taiwan. These significant developments since 1993-94, according to this view, justify another Taiwan Policy Review to make selected changes in US policy,” it said.
“The implications of a Taiwan policy review for US-PRC relations likely would depend on the nature of the policy review itself. A substantial or comprehensive public review undoubtedly would raise concerns both in the PRC and likely in Taiwan,” the study said.
There is no wisdom in confronting China head-on in Asia, and a TPR by the administration of US President Barack Obama must take this into account. But if the US is to balance China’s looming rise with a coalition of Asian democracies, Taiwan must be a key policy element.A resounding "yea!" to all this! Tkacik's whole piece is well worth reading, but what does he say about Taiwan?
With Kurt Campbell’s nomination as Obama’s — and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s — assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Obama’s national security appointments offer a prospect that his administration might actually salvage some of the Asia policy wreckage of the administration under former president George W. Bush. Campbell understands the looming crisis in Asia policy — the challenge of China’s rise — as does his fellow nominee at the Pentagon, retired Marine Lieutenant General Wallace “Chip” Gregson, for assistant secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs, and his deputy, Derek Mitchell.
Unfortunately, “geostrategic considerations,” when it comes to Taiwan (or China, for that matter) have long been absent in Washington policy circles. Former intelligence officer and White House Asia expert Robert Suettinger, in his book Beyond Tiananmen, admits that “the notion that American policy [toward China] is directly driven by strategic considerations ... is grossly inaccurate.” It had been driven instead by business pressures — if not by sheer intellectual inertia — long after the US’ strategic imperatives with proudly authoritarian China evaporated in the 1992 collapse of the Soviet Union and the 1989 reversal of China’s political reforms at Tiananmen.
Former president Bill Clinton’s China policy quietly changed in August 1999 after spectacular increases in Chinese missile deployments and jet fighter sorties in the Taiwan Strait. Clinton’s defense department secretly began to build up military cooperation with Taiwan — a momentum that continued without publicity through the Bush years — and Campbell was at the center of that initiative. He was an advocate of strong alliances with Japan and Australia — alliances that Bush minimized in an unhealthy reliance on Beijing’s influence in Asia.
The cascade of Asia policy disasters in the last four Bush years stemmed from the president’s preoccupation with Iraq and Afghanistan and his chronic inattention to geopolitics or strategy anywhere else. The erosion of the US-Japan alliance; permitting North Korea to drive the US’ Asia policy; complete neglect of Southeast Asia; inattention to a strategic partnership with India; abandoning democratic Taiwan in the face of war threats from undemocratic Beijing — that was the Bush Asia policy.
All of these failures sprang from the miscalculation that China was an active, responsible stakeholder in East Asian security, trade, humanitarian relief, the environment and so on. The Bush administration also persuaded itself that Taiwan was of such existential urgency to Beijing that China’s viciousness was excusable. Beijing therefore was permitted to alter the “status quo” with its missile deployments and its 2005 “Anti-Secession Law,” but Taiwan could never react.
Whether State Department or White House Asia policy aides often think of these things is beside the point. They are facts: Taiwan is positioned astride sea lanes plied by vast fleets of Asian shipping; Taiwan’s lofty mountains provide phased-array radar coverage of missile and aerospace activity 1,930km into continental East Asia; submarines moving from the East Asian coast into the Western Pacific go through Taiwan’s waters to avoid Japan’s extensive anti-submarine acoustic detection; Taiwan occupies the two largest islands in the South China Sea, Taiping and Pratas.Yup. The key point was made above: US policymaking towards China is driven by the fact that US elites do business with it. Scary.
More important, Taiwan is the US’ poster-child for democracy in Asia; the US’ 10th-largest export market; and the world’s fourth-largest foreign exchange reserves holder. Taiwan’s GDP is bigger than any in Southeast Asia. Taiwan’s population is bigger than Australia’s. In short, US equanimity at the prospect of democratic Taiwan’s absorption by communist China is a clear signal to the rest of Asia that the US has bought on to the “Beijing Consensus” — Asia may as well go along, too.
As I noted before, a policy review with the current cast of China experts is likely to result in an even more unfavorable stance toward ideas like the assent of the people of Taiwan to any changes, and further downgrading of weapons sales to the island. The appointment of Kurt Campbell may signal that a review is in the works, if not now, then a little further down the road, I overheard an expert say. However, word also has it that the State Department does not have its Taiwan team in place, while the DOD Taiwan people only started work a couple of weeks ago. This argues against the early occurrence of any review of Taiwan policy. Ominously, this means that US policymakers are simply going to leave Bush's disastrous Asia drift as the mainstream of US policy in the new Administration, and follow Ma Ying-jeou over the cliff, so that they can concentrate on the Middle East -- exactly what China wants them to do.
We're in for a tough couple of years at least.
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