Sat, Oct 08, 2005 - Page 8 News List

US should support full sovereignty for Taiwan

Lin Cho-Shui

On Aug. 23, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld voiced his displeasure with Taiwan's delays in approving the arms procurement budget, blurting out that, "countries -- sovereign nations have to do what they decide to do. It's up to them to do it."

That remark intrigued reporters so much that on Sept. 30 the US State Department came forward to reiterate that the US view that Taiwan is self-governed was unchanged, that the US' "one China" policy also remains unchanged and that it does not support Taiwan's independence.

This incident indicates a fundamental problem with the US' Taiwan policy.

The military budget is always a large part of a national budget. The only goal of spending such staggering amounts of money on expensive military equipment is to protect national sovereignty. If we agree with this goal, then it is rather odd that the US does not want to acknowledge that Taiwan is a sovereign state, while at the same time it asks Taiwan to purchase extremely expensive weapons. In fact, the US stance on this matter has seriously jeopardized Taiwan's national security.

The logic is that it only pays to spend so much money on weapons if they can be used to protect our sovereignty. But if the nation is deprived of its sovereignty, what would be the point of spending so much? Those who firmly believe that Taiwan is a sovereign state will of course feel that Taiwan has to be well-equipped militarily. However, as the US does not acknowledge our sovereignty, it is hardly surprising to see that many are giving up on the US and are opposing the arms procurement bill.

Only those with a clear awareness of the nation's sovereignty will feel a strong need for the arms procurement. Those with a clear awareness of the nation's sovereignty are also the only ones who will put the arms purchased -- the nation's tangible military capability -- to full use. Militarily speaking, tangible and intangible military capabilities are seen as being equally important. Intangible military capabilities refer to the public's willpower, and the core of that willpower is the awareness of sovereignty.

The US offers sharp and apprehensive reviews of Taiwan's ability to resist Chinese pressure in its annual Pentagon reports on the military power of the People's Republic of China. In one report, the US repeatedly stressed that the most decisive factor determining whether or not China will invade Taiwan is Beijing's perception of Taiwan's determination to defend itself. China's confidence in its military capabilities are secondary. The report stresses that the basis for Taiwan's determination to defend itself is whether or not the Taiwanese leadership and people identify themselves with their own nation strongly enough to want to defend it against China.

The question is, if Taiwan is not a sovereign state, how can the Taiwanese identify themselves with the country?

Adopting a "one China" policy and refusing to acknowledge Taiwan as a sovereign state has been the US' policy for over three decades. Based on its military expertise, the Pentagon believes Taiwanese have a strong civic awareness, while its slowly changing political policies cause the State Department to oppose that civic awareness.

In this case, we are undoubtedly witnessing a deep contradiction in the US' Taiwan policy. Unless it is resolved, Taiwan will not be able to purchase the weapons it needs.

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