Former US deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia Randy Schriver said that US President Barack Obama’s administration may be “on the verge” of changing its policies toward Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.After reviewing some of the issues surrounding the missiles China points at Taiwan, Schriver argues:
While not spelling out the possible change in detail, Schriver strongly hinted that it could result in a Taiwan arms sale freeze.
“The Obama administration has gone to great lengths to deny a Taiwan arms-sales freeze is in place, perhaps protesting a bit too much,” he wrote.The go-slow on the F-16 sales is one of the many areas where the Obama Administration is pursuing the same policies as the Bush Administration. Schriver advises the US not to lose its nerve. Good advice, that. But many in policy positions have fallen victim to the Chinese game of using "tension" to manage the Beijing-Washington relationship. Essentially the Chinese claim you are "causing tension" when you oppose their goals, and "harmonious" when you serve them. Remember always that with China, "tension" is a policy choice to force others to make concrete concessions to China for the sake of "maintaining the relationship." They are likely to be a bit nerve-challenged....
“Why does the administration continue a fiction that Taiwan has not formally requested more F-16[C/D] fighters? Why do mid and junior-level officials within the Obama administration allude to instructions from ‘senior leadership’ to hold congressional notifications on Taiwan arms sales and not to expect another major sale in 2010?” he asked.
“Even after [the] ECFA, a strong and capable Taiwan remains a key ingredient to security in the region,” he wrote.
Arms sales are an important symbol of US commitment to Taiwan and to the region. Despite the talk of peace, China recently upped its aggression level with the announcement that the South China Sea islands constitute a "core national interest". In response to the Chinese military build up and recent Chinese provocations, Japan has extended its air defense zone toward Taiwan. It will be extremely difficult for China to conduct offensive operations against Taiwan without violating Japan's air defense zone, as well as its territorial waters. Naturally the KMT government protested this.
Where is the US in all this? Well, Robert Gates' recent visit to China resulted in some exchanges on China's expansionism. Talk is nice, and tough talk is better. But some concrete expressions of US support for Taiwan would be great. One would be more weapons....
....the other would be closer economic relations. Rosen and Wang, whose recently published analysis of the results of ECFA has been widely disseminated in the media, are cited in a Taipei Times piece arguing that the ECFA agreement calls for greater US engagement:
“The economic cooperation framework agreement with China will fundamentally change the game between Taiwan and China and hence affect the regional economy and even the transpacific tempo for the US,” they said in the report, Deepening China-Taiwan Relations Through the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement.While Rosen and Wang's analysis is probably far too rosy, their call for closer economic relations is spot on. Closer US relations with Taiwan would be an important signal. Washington, however, appears to be split on how to handle China.
US engagement in Asian economic integration is important, they wrote, and Taipei and Washington could add to the balance in geoeconomic momentum centered on China by reinvigorating their trade and investment framework agreement (TIFA) talks, and by considering other opportunities for transpacific bridge-building that includes the US.
One issue not raised by either piece is the problem of Taiwan's own behavior. Again and again I have heard from foreign analysts and others with similar connections that the Taiwan side is "not ready" or "not serious" about upping its level of engagement with foreign nations. The idiotic beef flap, which not only peeved the US but caused many of its analysts to re-assess their opinions of Ma Ying-jeou, is only one example. I hope that some knowledgeable person will make public a critique of the Taiwan side in this discussion, so we can better understand what is going on.
- Chinese students on ethnographic bicycle trip around Taiwan, that strange and exotic land
- Beijing's Canadian apologist
- This hilarious comic strip Charisma Man about foreign men in Japan (h/t YFFM)
- David Reid's excellent letter in the Taipei Times
- South Korean arms spending and Turkey: the coming superpower at the great website Foreign Policy in Focus
- Hilarious-not: Asia Times hosts vicious, ugly piece by Chinese author extolling Chinese expansion as "patriotism".
- David Kilgour, who has done so much excellent work on the suppression of Falun Gong in and out of China, calls for the expulsion of a Chinese diplomat for organizing Chinese students in Canada to suppress protests. But of course Chinese students in Taiwan will never be a political problem like this.
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