It also follows the release of an alarming statistic by the Ministry of National Defense according to which more than 3,000 former Taiwan military officers are now either doing business or working in "consultancies" in mainland China.That was then. The problem has not gone away...
Several news outlets were reporting yesterday that the issue, which US observers had pressed privately with the Taiwan government, has now become public. Focus Taiwan says, translating a China Times piece:
Jason Yuan, Taiwan's representative in Washington, D.C., has reportedly told relevant government authorities about the U.S. concern over the high frequency and high level of interaction between retired Taiwanese generals and Chinese military authorities in recent years.I especially like the comment "Even scholars at the...CSIS had repeatedly inquired" as if they should be expected to refrain from doing so. CSIS has been strongly supportive of the ECFA process; they tend to support global corporate interests. The Taipei Times added:
The United States has maintained close military cooperation with Taiwan for decades. It has typically briefed Taiwan on the itinerary and main purposes before its senior military officers depart for visits to China. The U.S. government has reportedly asked Taiwan to follow suit by giving briefings on retired generals' visits to and interaction with China.
Sources familiar with the affair said former National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi had reminded the Ministry of National Defense on many occasions of the U.S. concern. As Taiwan's law does not impose any restrictions on such visits, the ministry can only collect information about retired generals' China travel plans and report it to superior authorities.
When Hsu Li-nung, a former chief of the General Political Warfare Department under the ministry, led a group of retired senior generals to Beijing for a high-profile visit in April, he said one of the event's primary purposes was to promote the establishment of a military confidence-building mechanism.
His remarks drew much concern from U.S. authorities. Even scholars at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies had repeatedly inquired during their Taipei visits about the possibility of Taiwan and China forging a military mechanism without U.S. participation.
Washington was also concerned about the possibility of military secrets being leaked, the report said.The emergence of this problem into the open suggests that the US has become quite frustrated with all the behind-the-scenes contact which it has no access to and which Taipei will not stop. What could be going on? Note that in the Taipei Times piece General Hsu is reported to have described the visit as a "confidence building mechanism" implying that there are informal arrangements being made. The existence of these relationships also shows how the KMT's dealings with China are pushed along by "gray" relationships that go farther than the government supposedly intends.
“It is understandable for the United States to voice concerns, given the rapidly improving ties between Taipei and Beijing,” Chen Wen-yi (陳文義), deputy chief of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ North American Affairs Department, told AFP.
In April, more than 20 retired generals, led by retired generals Hsu Li-nong (許歷農) and Cheng Ting-chung (陳廷寵), visited retired Chinese generals and government officials, one of many such visits in the past two years.
Hsu said publicly that the visit was to promote a military confidence-building mechanism.
In May, 27 retired generals went to China to play golf with Chinese counterparts, while more than 20 retired generals are currently on a visit to Nanjing.
The Ministry of National Defense yesterday would not comment on Washington’s concerns, adding that cross-strait negotiations were currently focused on economics, with no political or military talks in the pipeline.
The ministry said it had never authorized retired military personnel to promote confidence-building mechanisms with Chinese officials, adding that while it generally prohibited retired generals from going to China, in the past two years some had managed to circumvent the restrictions.
The two reports contradict on a vital matter: the China Times says no law prohibits such visits, but the Taipei Times said retired generals are generally not permitted to visit China, but some had managed to circumvent the law. Since the visit was public, why were the men not punished?
It is easy to see why certain sectors of the US defense community might be concerned about US technological secrets if ROC military officials have such intimate relations with their Chinese counterparts.
UPDATE: Don't miss Taiwan Link's excellent coverage of this topic, with detailed information and great insight, as always. Additionally, his taste in bloggers is unsurpassed.
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