Following the recent resignation of US Secretary of State Colin Powell, US President George W. Bush appointed National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice as Powell's successor. Rice's deputy, Stephen Hadley, will be replacing Rice. All signs point to members of the "Vulcans," Bush's foreign policy team during the 2000 presidential election campaign, directing foreign policy in his new cabinet. Yet decisionmakers such as conservative hawks Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld still seem to view China as a strategic competitor. This looks positive for Taiwan. But are things really as they seem?
The most interesting thing is Hadley's appointment. Hadley was a lawyer, and during the 1970s he was a policy analyst in the defense department. He was later assistant secretary of defense during Bush senior's term in office, specializing in nuclear and conventional arms control issues.
In George W. Bush's first term, he made Hadley his deputy national security adviser hoping that Hadley, with his experience in arms control issues, would be able to explain the US missile defense plan to concerned countries. China is the greatest obstacle to the implementation of the US missile defense plan in the Asia-Pacific region, so Hadley should understand the strategic importance of Taiwan's geopolitical position. As a result, the new Bush government's strategic evaluation can be expected to lead to a deepening of security cooperation between Taiwan and the US, rather than to the abandonment of Taiwan.
There are possible compromises that could be made by realist members of the Vulcan group, based on consideration of actual international political benefits and interests. One example: although they are hoping for changes in the Pyongyang government, tough behavior might induce a Chinese reaction. This could seriously affect the region's strategic balance, so they might then take a softer, multilateral approach to handling the North Korean nuclear issue.
In the future, the new US government will face several new diplomatic challenges, such as the reconstruction of Iraq, the Israeli-Palestine situation following the death of Palestinian president Yasser Arafat and the North Korean nuclear issue. Doubtless they would be glad to see stability in the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region so that they can concentrate on these other issues.
In particular, the US worries that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist organizations and lead to terrorist attacks on US soil. Opposition to nuclear arms proliferation, therefore, is at the top of the US foreign policy agenda. Following this logic, China will become its most important partner when it comes to global non-terrorism and anti-proliferation efforts. Based on a realistic appraisal of the international political situation, the members of the Vulcan group will expand cooperation with China and downplay differences of opinion.
In other words, if the Vulcans want to see China as a diplomatic partner in the 21st century, it would be impossible for them to oppose Beijing over the question of Taiwan.
Based on Washington's objective of strategic balance in the Asia-Pacific region, stability in the Taiwan Strait will be an important pillar of US security, and Taiwan will be key in supporting this strategic balance. From this perspective, Bush's new team will not rashly abandon Taiwan, and the US is unwilling to tie any other issue to its arms sales to Taiwan.