US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said in an interview on Tuesday that a declaration of war in defense of Taiwan is a decision that can only be made by Congress. All Armitage's remarks imply is that the US is a country in which the rule of law is practiced -- really nothing new. His remark about Taiwan being a landmine was more controversial. What he likely meant is that the Taiwan issue is so thorny that it might lead to friction between the US and China, and could become explosive if not carefully handled. This is hardly new either. If this is not what he meant, hopefully he can clarify his meaning more fully to prevent a misunderstanding.
The Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) immediate reaction to Armitage's remarks was to speak for the US by interpreting them as a warning that the US would be unlikely to commit forces in the event of war. The KMT's behavior is incomprehensible; on the one hand it says the US will not defend Taiwan, yet on the other, it blocked the military procurement budget that Taiwan needs to defend itself. Such behavior indicates the KMT is deliberately retarding Taiwan's military strength.
Ever since the KMT lost the 2000 presidential election, the party has spoken for other countries as if it were a political prophet. It spoke for China and claimed that Beijing was likely to attack, and spoke for the US, saying that Washington was unlikely to send its troops to assist Taiwan in the event of war. Of course, we understand that the KMT has no cards to play anymore.
On the other hand, Taiwan has maintained its national competitiveness since the DPP came to power, and since the beginning of the year, the economy has also made a comeback. Ironically, the only problem domestically is that the legislature may continue to stagnate after the blue camp won a majority in the legislative elections.
While hampering the government, the KMT is also acting as Beijing's mouthpiece, manipulating the public by fostering fears of war. How can the people of Taiwan tolerate this party which has degenerated from a powerful authoritarian organization into a group of craven weasels, who can do no more than hamper the work of government?
Unless the KMT becomes a normal political party, Taiwan will find it impossible to become a normal country under the combined assaults from it and China, and the US hope that Taiwan will increase its self-defense capability will not be realized.
The worst-case scenario is that the KMT will succeed in unilaterally disarming Taiwan, so that when the massive Chinese military makes its move, the US will face a dilemma as to how to respond militarily. If it mobilizes its forces, the cost is likely to be high; but if it doesn't, it will witness Taiwan being swallowed up by a totalitarian beast. Is this what the US really wants?
If it isn't, then the US, in formulating its policy to aid the defense of Taiwan, must also consider the KMT's "China complex," and avoid allowing it to become a weak link in the defense of the Taiwan Strait.
It is encouraging that military officers will now be posted at the American Institute in Taiwan, and that a security mechanism for the Taiwan Strait has been activated. The US Congress should also amend the Taiwan Relations Act to make it more consistent with the spirit and condition of the times, and block any rash actions by China to annex Taiwan.