Wed, Mar 16, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan can benefit from US-Japan partnership

By Henry Liu 劉得銓

On March 7, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi -- disregarding Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing's (李肇星) warning -- stressed that Japan's hope to peacefully resolve the problem in the Taiwan Strait remains unchanged, and that the US and Japan have made the issue a "common strategic objective" to ensure they have the same stance.

If we look closer, a number of facts lie behind Japan's stance, including repeated incursions into its waters by Chinese nuclear-powered submarines, the sovereignty dispute over the Tiaoyutai and China's military budget, which has grown by double-digit figures for 16 consecutive years.

Taiwan has kept a low profile on this development, and has purposely not linked it to China's notorious "anti-secession" law, so as to avoid Chinese interference in a more formal partnership among Taiwan, Japan and the US in the future. Nevertheless, the future of the US-Japan alliance and relations with China, as well as their impact on the cross-strait situation have received global attention.

Beijing, apart from lobbying the EU to lift an arms embargo against China, also outlined three conditions for using the "anti-secession" law during a meeting of the National People's Congress' on March 8. The law authorizes the military to block Taiwan independence by using "non-peaceful means." Obviously, it was a move against the joint statement of the US-Japan Security Consultative Committee.

The next day, US officials immediately reacted to China's destruction of the balance of power in the Strait, saying that the law contradicts the gradual warming of cross-strait relations. They called on Beijing to reconsider it, saying that Washington "opposes any attempt to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means."

They also hinted that, apart from issuing a tougher statement after the law is passed, Washington will further show its concern during Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to Beijing.

Meanwhile, some members of the US Congress have already launched a petition against the law. Viewed from this angle, Washington's strategic global deployment can be seen -- with the US-Japan alliance being made the pillar of security in the Asia-Pacific region in order to restrain China from breaking through the island chain.

Taiwan is one of the countries peripheral to the US-Japan alliance. Taiwan should make use of the developments of both the US-Japan joint statement and China's law. Strategically, it should adjust its actions to the circumstances to give full play to its crucial position in the island chain. The following are my suggestions for the national security agencies.

First, Taiwan can open a window of opportunity by strengthening the US-Japan alliance. In the short term, it should focus on how to rapidly promote favorable policies. In the long term, it should integrate its various diplomatic, military and economic resources related to the US and Japan, and seek to play the role of an active strategic partner.

Second, although Taiwan is backed by the US-Japan security cooperation, the lack of an official military partnership with the two countries makes it necessary to declare its determination to defend itself to the world through "reasonable and practical" arms procurements.

Finally, in terms of military exchanges, Taiwan should cultivate talented people who are sophisticated in dealing with the US and Japan, and build a preliminary military exchange mechanism with Japan through the US. They can even push for triangular "war games" through private think tanks.

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