The Yomiuri Shimbun
China is stepping up its intimidation of Taiwan. Continued active U.S. engagement with Taiwan is imperative for maintaining the peace and stability of East Asia, including the Taiwan Strait.
Forty years have passed since the United States enacted the Taiwan Relations Act. This legislation has played the role of a basic law for retaining a substantial relationship with Taiwan, even after the United States established diplomatic ties with China and severed formal governmental relations with Taiwan.
The law stipulates the United States will provide Taiwan with “arms of a defensive character” and “determine … appropriate action” in response to any threat to the security of the people of Taiwan. These stipulations were made with China in mind.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said cooperation with the United States based on the Taiwan Relations Act has enabled Taiwan to become a free and robust democratic society. While Tsai applauded the law’s achievements, she also called for further U.S. support.
Taiwan will hold a presidential election in 2020. There are concerns China will ratchet up military tensions in an attempt to dislodge the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which is strongly pro-independence, from power.
Chinese military combat aircraft and vessels constantly circle Taiwan’s main island. In late March, Chinese fighters crossed the median line claimed by Taipei in the Taiwan Strait and intruded into Taiwan’s side.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has publicly declared Beijing will not “renounce the use of force” if another nation interferes in the Taiwan issue. This comment, an admission of China’s military threat, cannot be glossed over.
China must restrain self
In its annual report on military and security developments involving China, analysis by the U.S. Defense Department showed the People’s Liberation Army “is likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with the mainland by force.” The United States will need to take concrete actions that urge China to exercise self-restraint.
For four consecutive months since January, the U.S. Navy has dispatched vessels through the Taiwan Strait. In April, the United States decided to sell weapons worth about $500 million (about ¥55 billion) to Taiwan, including spare parts for F-16 fighters and a pilot training program.
Active military personnel from the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps have been stationed at the American Institute in Taiwan, which effectively serves as the U.S. embassy in Taiwan, since 2005. The recent disclosure of this fact was probably aimed at keeping China in check.
The U.S. Congress has spearheaded the strengthening of ties with Taipei. It has passed a series of new laws such as the Taiwan Travel Act, which encourages mutual visits by high-level U.S. and Taiwan officials.
At a time when antagonism with China is expanding from trade to fields including security and advanced technology, a hard-line approach toward China is transcending U.S. party lines and gaining momentum. Unless China rethinks its moves to assert dominance, a further chilling of ties will be unavoidable.
Instability in the Taiwan Strait also could have negative repercussions for Japan. The nation should work closely with the United States and deepen cooperation with Taiwan through economic and personal exchanges.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 16, 2019)