Talking straight with US paramount - Taipei Times
Thu, Jan 06, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Talking straight with US paramount

By Paul Lin林保華

In an interview with the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) on Dec. 10, US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage caused strong concern in Taiwan by saying that the island is "probably the biggest landmine" in Washington's ties with Beijing. But this view is not important. What matters is the fact that Taiwan is an unsinkable aircraft carrier, whose strategic significance is shown when it comes to whether it is independent, what country it belongs to or leans toward.

According to Armitage, if China really attacks Taiwan by force, the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA, 台灣關係法) requires the US to maintain sufficient force in the Pacific to be able to deter attack, but it does not require it to defend the island, adding that the power to declare war rests with Congress. In fact, the TRA does say this, and this has been Washington's long-term "policy of ambiguity."

The core of Armitage's unfriendly remarks was: "we all agree that there is but one China, and Taiwan is part of China." This is a continuance of the remarks made by US Secretary of State Colin Powell during his visit to Beijing in October, who said that "there is only one China. Taiwan is not independent. It does not enjoy sovereignty as a nation."

Their words were neither slips of the tongue nor gifts for China before their retirement. This is because the US' cross-strait policy is leaning toward China. But the above remarks contradict the Sino-US Joint Communique, signed in 1972 in Shanghai, which states that the US merely "acknowledges," instead of "agrees," that there is but one China [and Taiwan is part of China]. Nor do they tally with Taiwan's status as defined in the TRA. Obviously, the US is pressuring Taiwan due to worries that it is rapidly heading toward independence.

While the US is pressuring Taiwan, we also see its growing military deployment specifically targeting China, gradually taking it as a dangerous enemy. This phenomenon can be shown as follows:

The US has already stationed about 300,000 soldiers from its four services -- including the Marines -- across the Pacific region. Moreover, in light of the speedy nature of modern warfare today, the US Pacific Command headquarters confirmed in late December that the Joint Task Force (JTF)-519 was formed about five years ago to improve its military mobility in the Taiwan Strait. Washington is apparently warning Beijing by revealing the information at this moment.

Next, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) announced that the US will station an active-duty military officer there for the first time since 1979, when it severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Washington said the reason was to improve administrative efficiency. The efficiency of an active-duty officer is certainly much better than that of a retired one. Washington has sensed that the cross-strait crisis is worse than ever. This has not only a diplomatic meaning, but also a strategic one.

The US recently warned the EU again not to remove its weapons embargo against China, or it will stop providing military technology to the union. Washington clearly and definitely pointed out that a lifting of the ban would endanger Taiwan. It also demanded that Israel keep its promise not to help China upgrade its attack ballistic missiles. Before this, it successfully stopped Israel from selling early-warning aircraft to China.

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