China has once more subjected Taiwan to its brutish behavior over President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) recent trip to visit diplomatic allies in Latin America. At the same time, Chen was cold shouldered by the US, causing him considerable difficulty in finding a place to transit. The transit stop was not even decided until hours after Chen's flight took off last Thursday.
Chen is a national leader; therefore, Chen's misfortune is Taiwan's misfortune, just as his frustration is Taiwan's frustration. Neither the ruling nor the opposition parties can look at this from the wings and ignore Chen's recent diplomatic setback, nor can they take pleasure in Chen's misfortune.
Chen had planned to fly eastward and make a transit stop in the US en route to South and Central America. Instead, the flight went west, stopping in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. In the past, the Chen administration's foreign policy has always been orientated toward the US. It should conduct a major rethink of its diplomatic orientation and go its own way.
Given the international situation and Taiwan's predicament, the current and future Taiwan-US relationship is and will continue to be extremely important. Nevertheless, continued absolute reliance on the US will exact a price, as the US tends to look on Taiwan as a pawn in its game. Taiwan is expected to comply 100 percent with the US' commands, on pain of being put to rights either covertly or overtly.
At present, the US needs China's support at the UN over issues such as nuclear development in Iran and North Korea. Because of this, ties between the US and China have been prioritized in the three-way relationship between Taiwan, the US and China. Forced by the US into a position between the two great powers, Taiwan is not even given the luxury of being allowed to stand up to them.
The smallest action on the part of the US has major repercussions in Taiwan: When the US coughs, Taiwan gets a cold. Chen's recent US transit episode was an example of Taiwan being caught off guard, and ending up a loser no matter what it did to resolve the situation.
On the domestic front, we see a confrontation between the pan-green camp's pro-US stance and the pan-blue camp's pro-China stance. If the US continues to treat Chen like this, it is likely the pan-blue camp will get the upper hand. If this happens, it will not be to the US' advantage.
Without an international strategy and careful implementation, Taiwan will find it even harder to break out of its diplomatic isolation. Let's make sure this unusual incident is a one-off event, and that it never happens again.
Hu Wen-huei is a political columnist.
TRANSLATED BY LIN YA-TI