US President George W. Bush's inclusion of Taiwan as one of the US' "good friends" in his Feb. 16 radio address was the most important policy statement he made about the island during his recent Asia tour.
Reflecting on his upcoming trip, Bush said he would "thank Japan for five decades of friendship." Then he noted, "All around this great [Pacific] ocean, we see good friends -- Canada and Australia, New Zealand and Thailand, the Philippines and Taiwan. And they will find in America a nation that is determined and patient and committed to the great cause of building a world that is more peaceful, more secure, and more prosperous."
Taiwan's presence on this list was no mistake. Presidential speeches are carefully scripted, with White House aides and State Department wonks weighing every word. To call Taiwan a "good friend" along with the other strong US allies on the Pacific Rim was meant to be a signal of just how Bush sees this part of the world and Taiwan's importance in his worldview.
Bush returned to the theme of democratic friends in the Pacific when speaking in Tokyo. "Realizing this vision, a fellowship of free Pacific nations, will require Japan and America to work more closely together than ever," he declared.
Then Bush threw the mantle of US military might over democratic friends in the region. "America, like Japan, is a Pacific nation, drawn by trade and values and history to be a part of Asia's future. We stand more committed than ever to a forward presence in this region. We will continue to show American power and purpose in support of the Philippines, Australia and Thailand. We will deter aggression against the Republic of Korea. Together, Japan and the United States will strengthen our ties of security. America will remember our commitments to the people of Taiwan. And to help protect the people of this region, and our friends and allies in every region, we will press on with an effective program of missile defenses."
The emphasis that Bush placed as a presidential candidate on "friends and allies," particularly on Japan, has been implemented in his administration. The fact that Bush has now met with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi four times reflects the key place Japan holds in the strategic thinking of officials such as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. In fact, while Bush was in Tokyo praising Japan as "the bedrock for peace and prosperity" in the Pacific, Wolfowitz also praised Japan, before a US-Japan Business Conference, for its military support in the war against terrorism. "These are not things Japan was obligated to do," Wolfowitz said. "These were actions of a close and trusted friend."
Bush's Tokyo statement also reflects the Pentagon's Septem-ber 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review. In the foreward, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld states the "four key goals that will guide the development of US forces and capabilities, their deployment and use:
1. Assuring allies and friends of the United States' steadiness of purpose and its capability to fulfill its security commitments;
2. Dissuading adversaries from undertaking programs or operations that could threaten US interests or those of our allies and friends;
3. Deterring aggression and coercion by deploying forward the capacity to swiftly defeat attacks and impose severe penalties for aggression on an adversary's military capability and supporting infrastructure; and