Today is the 10th anniversary of the last general elections held in Myanmar, which were won handily by the National League for Democracy (NLD), with 82 percent of the vote. Sadly, the elected parliament has never met, victim of a rapacious military junta which refused to release its grip on the country.
The human rights record of the military regime is abysmal by any standard. The contrast with the charismatic and peace-loving leader of the NLD, Aung San Suu Kyi, could not be greater. For her courageous struggle, Suu Kyi was honored with the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize.
These facts alone should be sufficient for all Taiwanese who cherish their own hard-won human rights and democracy to support the Burmese people in their time of need. But in fact there are also hard-nosed national security considerations that point in the same direction.
Myanmar under the generals is a client state -- some would say a colony -- of China. As such, it provides Beijing with an important lever to increase its influence over Southeast Asia. Collusion with the junta allows China to apply direct pressure on Thailand across that disturbed border. Now that it is a member of ASEAN, Myanmar acts to block any anti-China consensus forming in that group, weakening, for example, the ability of the Philippines and Vietnam to resist Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea. Currently, China is constructing a port in Myanmar that will provide the PLA with naval access to the Indian Ocean, flanking ASEAN and challenging Indian influence there.
The emergence of a pro-Western and/or democratic government in Yangon would be a major setback to China's strategy of regional hegemony and a clear benefit for Taiwan. Therefore, national security considerations should prompt Taiwan to consider a more pro-active effort to support Burmese pro-democracy elements. Myanmar is in fact a key fulcrum point, where a modest application of resources by Taiwan could have a magnified return.
President Chen Shui-bian
Myanmar, being perhaps the most egregious violator of these norms in Asia, would seem an obvious place to make such a new effort, and today's anniversary would be an auspicious day to begin. All it would take to get started would be a simple statement, a telegram or a letter, either from Chen or from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressing support for Suu Kyi and her cause. We could do worse than to reiterate the recent statement by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: "We renew our commitment to Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League of Democracy. As long as you struggle, we will do all we can to assist. And we know that you will not stop struggling until you prevail."
By making such a comment and by following it up consistently, Taiwan can send a message to the world that it plans to live up the ideals that Chen has set forth so clearly. At the same time, Taiwan can take a step toward diminishing the overbearing shadow of Chinese domination in Asia.
It is not every day that a country's ideals and its national security interests perfectly overlap. Taiwan should not pass up this precious opportunity.
In 1955, US general Benjamin Davis Jr, then-commander of the US’ 13th Air Force, drew a maritime demarcation line in the middle of the Taiwan Strait, known as the median line. Under pressure from the US, Taiwan and China entered into a tacit agreement not to cross the line. On July 9, 1999, then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) described cross-strait relations as a “special state-to-state” relationship. In response, Beijing dispatched People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft into the Taiwan Strait, crossing the median line for the first time since 1955. The PLA has begun to regularly traverse the line. On Sept. 18 and 19, it
Midday in Manhattan on Wednesday, September 16, was sunny and mild. Even with the pandemic’s “social distancing” it was a perfect day for “al fresco” dining with linen tablecloths and sidewalk potted palms outside one of New York City’s elegant restaurants. Two members of the press, outfitted with digital SLR cameras and voice recorders, were dispatched by The Associated Press to cover a rare outdoor diplomatic meeting on one of these New York streets. American diplomat Kelly Craft, Chief of the United States Mission to the United Nations, lunched in the open air with Taiwan’s ambassador-ranked representative in New York, James
Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) recently declared that aggression and expansionism have never been in the Chinese nation’s “genes.” It is almost astonishing that he managed to say it with a straight face. Aggression and expansionism obviously are not genetic traits, but they have defined Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) tenure. Xi, who in some ways has taken up the expansionist mantle of Mao Zedong (毛澤東), is attempting to implement a modern version of the tributary system that Chinese emperors used to establish authority over vassal states: submit to the emperor, and reap the benefits of peace and
Unlike its previous practice of disclosing the latest activities of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in a press release, the Ministry of National Defense has in the past few weeks followed the model of the Japanese Ministry of Defense. When carrying out surveillance and reconnaissance of the nation’s waters and airspace, it has posted real-time military activity updates on its Chinese-language Web site, explaining with text and graphs the responses and measures taken by the nation’s armed forces. The disclosed information on PLA activities show that the military is capable of maintaining regional security and safeguarding a free and open