At the first high-level military dialogue between the U.S. and China since military contact was derailed following the sale of $6 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan in January 2010, Gen. Chen denied that China had any missiles across from Taiwan, saying, “I can tell you here, responsibly, that we only have garrison deployment across from Taiwan and we do not have operational deployment, much less missiles stationed there.”While Gen. Chen's obvious lies provoked mostly laughter among observers, two high-ranking American officials, Sec of State Hilary Clinton and Adm Mullen, demonstrated a poor grip on US policy that had the State Department out the following day "clarifying" what they said. The Taipei Times reports:
Experts and Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense say China has more than 1,000 missiles targeted at Taiwan. While many of the missiles may not be “across from Taiwan,” they’re awfully close, as Mark Stokes, executive director of think tank Project 2049 Institute thoroughly chronicles in a recent blog post.
At a Washington press conference on Wednesday, Chen said: “During my office call on Secretary Clinton this morning, she told me — she reiterated the US policy; that is, there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China.”Somebody didn't listen at the briefing! ADDED: Although Chen is probably lying about what she said.
His remarks alarmed Taiwanese-American groups, who called the US Department of State on Thursday asking for an explanation.
They particularly wanted to know if US policy toward Taiwan had changed.
Late on Thursday night, a US official said: “The United States has maintained a consistent policy across eight administrations; our ‘one China’ policy, based on the three US-China Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act, has not changed. The secretary reiterated this policy yesterday in her meeting with General Chen.”
And frankly, that's what the State Department gets for not simply clearly and forthrightly stating what US policy is: the status of Taiwan is undetermined. This sort of nonsense could be avoided if US officials would stop playing coy.
And then there was Adm Mullen:
[Mullen] said: “As General Chen said, Secretary Clinton repeated and I would only re-emphasize the United States policy supports a ‘one China’ policy. And I certainly share the view of the peaceful reunification of China.”FAPA put out a statement pointing out that the US should make it clear democratic Taiwan has the US' full support and that Taiwan's status is undetermined.
Later, Captain John Kirby, a spokesman for Mullen, explained: “The chairman fully supports the United States’ ‘one China’ policy, which is based on the three US-China Joint Communiques and the Taiwan Relations Act. This policy has been consistent across eight administrations. The United States supports a peaceful resolution acceptable to the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. It is this peaceful resolution to which the chairman was referring.”
A counterpoint to this barrage of misunderstandings is the clarity of the increasingly pessimistic view of things from observers in Washington. This week longtime Taiwan expert Robert Sutter wrote for the NBR with the following policy implications:
- Policy elites in Taiwan and the U.S. privately may be aware of the implications of Chinese leverage in determining Taiwan’s future and perhaps may favor Taiwan’s eventual reunification with China. However, other stakeholders in the media, among politicians and interest groups, and in the general public are not. Without a clearer view of existing realities, these groups may lash out in ultimately futile but highly disruptive ways as their preferred status quo wanes.
- A similar backlash can be anticipated from like-minded stakeholders within the Taiwan and U.S. administrations who cling to unrealistic expectations that Taiwan can preserve freedom of action amid the increasingly constraining circumstances caused by a rising China, a weakened Taiwan, and declining U.S. support.
- U.S. allies and friends in Asia, notably Japan, will require extraordinary reassurance that U.S. government encouragement of conditions leading to the resolution of Taiwan’s future and reunification with China does not forecast a power-shift in the region. Perceptions of such a shift would require dramatic and probably disruptive policy changes by regional states, ranging from bandwagoning with China to indigenous rearmament to become less reliant on declining U.S. power and resolve.
A key issue a number of people have observed, most recently Steve Tsang in Asia Times, is that the twin problem of US decline + Taiwan's defense decline = an extremely unstable situation in which China might easily conclude that a quick victory is possible in a war because the US cannot/will not intervene, and Japan won't move without the US. Tsang points out, as many observers including myself have noted, that the current democracy is incompatible with single-party authoritarian rule in China, which means it will have to be eliminated.
But think carefully. Taiwan's democracy is more than skin deep and its people are immensely proud of it. The KMT can cause it immense harm but does not, at this point, appear to be able to blot it out. Meaning that the military option may be more attractive because it will enable China to efficiently crush the island's democracy, which cannot be done by peaceful means, without becoming beholden to the KMT. Weakness here and in Washington is an invitation. And we all know how limited wars swiftly become infinite -- see Afghanistan, Libya.....
- Patrick Cowsill nails how desperate the Taipei city government is to connect to the Qing Dynasty rather than relate true history. Pathetic.
- Is Taiwan's press freedom slipping away?
- That's Impossible! points out: But it's fair to wonder if the continued international pressure Beijing exerts indirectly against Taiwan, such as in the WHO title issue, is aimed at forcing the KMT into political negotiations by forcing them to bleed a little on these issues every now and then. Yep.
- EU is investigating Evergreen and other Asian lines for forming a shipping cartel.
- Exports to drive GDP growth to 5.06%. That's .06, not 0.5 or 0.7.
- AP says Ma's requests for F-16s are putting US in a bind. Are they? Does Ma really want them, or is it just noise?
- China's economy -- a structural mess. The insights of the report covered in this article are excellent.
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