Fri, Jun 17, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Unification won't bring peace

By Huang Jei-hsuan

Many people believe that unifying with China would bring Taiwan peace. That was partially why supporters of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) dubbed his trip to China "Journey of Peace." But would "unification" necessarily bring peace to Taiwan?

Lien's trip might have managed to revive China's fading hope of annexing Taiwan. The active collaboration of Lien and other pan-blue leaders is giving Beijing the wrong impression that its attempt to annex Taiwan enjoys significant support inside Taiwan. The illusion in turn could encourage, not discourage, Beijing's use of force.

The channel for Beijing to deliver messages to the Taiwanese people directly has been established by Lien's China trip. The first demonstration of this was seen when a KMT official briefed Taiwan's press on the details of a memorandum of understanding between China and the chief of the World Health Organization. With the abundant pro-China media apparatus firmly planted in Taiwan, Beijing might become more confident that it has the means to pave the way for a limited-scale stealth attack. Therefore, it could miscalculate.

That scenario, however, is based on the premise that Beijing pins little hope on peaceful annexation of Taiwan.

Given that 65 percent to 85 percent of Taiwanese people are against any "unification," it might be quite difficult for China to get the process off the ground even with a heavy dose of compulsion. On top of that, Beijing has to consider the international reaction.

Some international powers would respond with deep misgivings, if not vehement opposition, toward coercion-based "unification" -- even if it were non-violent on the surface.

For years, the US' attitude regarding cross-strait interaction has been neutral in the sense that it would not interfere as long as no force is involved.

However, lately, this laissez-faire approach may be undergoing a fundamental reevaluation because of China's unexpectedly rapid military build-up. Reports that China is developing missiles that would be capable of reaching anywhere in the US -- and that China's expansion of its arsenal far exceeds what would be needed in a regional conflict -- have definitely cast doubts on Beijing's "peaceful rising" theory.

Judging from US officials' growing trepidation on the subject of Taiwan's arms procurement, one might be able to deduce that Taiwan's strategic value is on the rise. More specifically, during a recent visit to Taiwan, former US deputy assistant secretary of state Randall Schriver even reaffirmed US President George W. Bush's now famous "whatever it takes" remark, made early in his first term, as being just as valid today. Bush's latest comments, however, have tried to strike a balance.

For now, the US is obliged to block any non-peaceful annexation attempt based on the Taiwan Relations Act. Conversely, Washington has not spelled out the threshold it would tolerate for China's non-forceful compulsion of Taiwan -- which is most likely inversely proportional to the strategic value of Taiwan -- before it would intervene. But the idea that a democratic Taiwan -- on its own volition -- would be willing to be annexed by an authoritarian China would be very difficult for the US to stomach, disregarding its strategic and security implications.

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