Sun, Dec 26, 2004 - Page 8 News List

US support for Taiwan may not be a sure thing

By Chin Heng-wei 金恆煒

When asked during a television interview what he thought the "landmines" were in terms of US-China relations, US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage replied, "Taiwan," adding that, "Taiwan is probably the biggest landmine." So, will the US actually come to the defense of Taiwan in the event of an attack by China? To this, Armitage's answer was that the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA, 台灣關係法) stipulates the US has to maintain sufficient force in the Pacific to resist any resort to force, but the decision of whether or not to declare a state of war remains with the US Congress.

It is difficult to find fault in what he actually said here, but what is clear from all this is first that the US is concerned about the rise of China; secondly, that a degree of conflict has arisen between the US and China; and third, that the issue of a potential "landmine" exploding is a crucial point.

In other words, the US is well aware of the threat posed by the rise of China, otherwise there would be no tension between them. At most, Taiwan is the "biggest" possible cause of trouble flaring.

As a result, the US' true focus is not the Taiwan question but the threat of China, and Taiwan is merely a landmine placed between the two giants. It is only when the situation is looked at in this light that one can understand the US standpoint on the Taiwan question, the TRA and US-China-Taiwan relations.

The TRA was passed in both houses of the US Congress, and declares that "peace and stability in the area are in the political, security, and economic interests of the United States," and that to have "boycotts and embargoes" against Taiwan are "a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area," and are therefore "of grave concern to the United States."

Therefore, if the US comes to the defense of Taiwan, it will be doing so out of consideration of its own national interest.

Naturally, America has the choice of not defending Taiwan, should it relinquish its interests in the West Pacific region. To put it more clearly, if the US sells the "Taiwan landmine" down the river, and scraps the TRA, they will be losing the Western Pacific Region as a sphere of influence. This will be tantamount to making the same errors they committed 50 years ago, and creating a monster that they cannot control.

In May 1946, Chiang Kai-shek's (蔣介石) forces routed the communist army in the battle of Sipingjie, and were approaching Harbin by June.

Here, he could have struck a decisive blow against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), but called a ceasefire under pressure from US General George Marshall.

This gave the communists time to rest and regroup, and three years later communist China became a reality.

With a little assistance from China, the Soviet Union was able to extend into Asia, in addition to the influence it had in Europe and China itself. Also, Kim Il-sung (金日成) attacked the south of Korea, and Ho Chi-minh (胡志明) was able to have the success he did in Indochina. This all had the effect of worsening the Cold War.

Even today North Korea presents a major challenge to the US: they should have learned their lesson the first time around. America's mistakes of half a century ago have created the crisis that exists between China and Taiwan. Will the US make a similar mistake again? America has already lost friends in Europe -- is the same thing going to happen in Asia as well? This is not just something for the White House to think about: Congress must take note, too.

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