Mon, Oct 02, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Take advantage of Abe's rise

By Mark Du

Earlier this week, the Japanese Diet selected Shinzo Abe as the new prime minister. While South Korea and China voiced concern over the emerging realism manifested in Japan's choice of Abe, we Taiwanese were too self-absorbed with domestic infighting to recognize that the regional winds of change were blowing in our favor.

To take advantage of this windfall, we need to make our government set aside petty rivalries and political one-upmanship and send a clear message to the region that Taiwan is committed to a stronger and more proactive Japan and a regional order in which China is held accountable for its belligerence.

The existing security order of the region owes much of its stability to the military presence of the US, backed up by Japan. The region has been stable due to the undisputed military and economic dominance of the US-Japan Alliance, which functions as a de facto NATO of East Asia.

All emerging conflicts in the region must ultimately answer to the US military, which guarantees that it is never in a country's best interest to militarize and rock the boat. However, this regional order is being challenged by the rise of China. Beijing's belligerence towards Taiwan, which is manifested in the continual buildup of its armed forces, will inevitably create friction in the Taiwan Strait and the entire region as the security balance slowly tilts.

The Japanese have been prescient in recognizing this unsettling trend, and have not forgotten how easily the Chinese can be whipped into a Japan-hating frenzy by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as happened in 2004. Thus, Japan has upped the ante and selected a hawkish prime minister who seeks, in partnership with the US, to help maintain the security order that has worked so well for the past half century.

This is a window of opportunity for Taiwan, and a chance to demonstrate our commitment to a regional security order maintained by democratic powers. Now is the time to launch new diplomatic efforts with Japan, to communicate to the region Taiwan's sovereign interests and to seek cooperative agreements that align the nation with the US-Japan alliance.

To do so, we must expedite weapons procurement from the US, raise the percentage of our GDP that is devoted to the military and seek out more military exchange exercises with the US and Japan. The latter is more receptive to such contact than ever before. By becoming a stakeholder in regional security, we also enhance our own national security. Setting aside all political reasoning, we can always adhere to a simple maxim: "The enemy of my enemy is a friend."

Mark Du

Miami, Florida

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