Julian Baum rocks the Christian Science Monitor with a great opinion piece on the importance of Taiwan and the Obama Administration's counterproductive, prestige-reducing policy in Asia:
Yang’s working assumption that Taiwan still has a role in US security policy in East Asia is correct, though it is sometimes disputed. And it points to why the denial of an effective air defense could ultimately be costly for the US. With shrinking resources across the vast US Pacific Command and geographically limited locations for its bases, the US military requires the full complement of Taiwan’s air patrols, intelligence gathering, and air combat capabilities.It's not just Taiwan; our Taiwan policy reflects on our Asia policy as a whole. It should also be noted that while attention is focused on the supply of arms to Taiwan for use against China in an invasion, that is NOT the only reason Taiwan may come into conflict with China. China is also trying to annex the entire South China Sea, an area in which Taiwan is intimately involved, and is also trying to steal the Senkakus from Japan. Taiwan could well find itself pulled into a conflict over those areas.
This lethal combination of strategic confusion and accommodationist politics gives the appearance of Washington turning away from a fellow democracy as it drifts into the orbit of a hostile authoritarian state. That is not a reassuring message to our Asian allies and friends, old or new.
Regardless of how prosperous and newly influential China may be, the long history of US relations with Taiwan celebrates values that Beijing cannot deny. They include democratic institutions and a free society based on universal human rights and the rule of law. These place the island-nation among the most valuable members of the international community.
To throw away these values in favor of business-as-usual with Beijing is neither good policy nor smart diplomacy. And it is no way for the US to re-engage as a Pacific nation and win respect.
The contradictions that lie at the heart of America's Taiwan policy may be illustrated with a simple map:
See the problem? On all sides of Taiwan we are confronting Chinese expansion. Essentially, at this point, US policy appears to be to sell Taiwan to China and then go to war with China over uninhabited rocks in the South China Sea and the Senkakus. Washington needs to rethink its policy....because if Beijing's complaints worked to prevent F-16 sales, how do you think Beijing is going to treat, say, joint military exercises between Hanoi and Washington?
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