Mon, Nov 06, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan a weak link in US chain

By Emerson Chang 張子揚

This all occurred prior to the summit between Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) in Washington in April. In May, hot on the heels of the Bush-Hu summit, the US Department of Defense released its 2006 Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China, expounding the potential threat of China's continuous military buildup and the fact that Taiwan plays a decisive role in whether or not China will be able to break through the first island chain and weaken US power in the Asia-Pacific region.

Washington does not believe in a gradually growing military imbalance in the Taiwan Strait, but rather that the military balance is already stacked in China's favor.

That is, the US is deeply concerned about Taiwan's short-term defense capabilities should war actually break out across the Taiwan Strait.

These concerns imply that the US is now becoming increasingly uncertain whether it should protect Taiwan and whether the chain of islands that the US linked together during the Cold War once again will be able to effectively contain China.

At present, Japan is the most cooperative of the nations in this chain of islands, while the others -- South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Australia and New Zealand -- have their own interest and political concerns. Not all of these island states support US containment of China, and there are particularly glaring disagreements on the issue of defending Taiwan. As a result, the US has not been able to make any major progress despite its active efforts.

Faced with the turmoil and political standstill in Taiwan and the North Korean nuclear test, the US, eager to mend its West Pacific island chain, had to let Young make an appeal to the Taiwanese public to force the government and opposition to cooperate on the arms procurement bill. Taiwan, however, seems to be one of the more corroded links in this island chain. If the US wants to polish it, I'm afraid it will have to make a greater effort.

Emerson Chang is director of the department of international studies at Nan Hua University.

Translated by Daniel Cheng

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