A recent report in the online Japan Times on Jan. 4 said that a strategy was being drawn up between US and Japanese officials to continue to promote the two countries' common interests and "concerns" in the Taiwan Strait.
Last year, cooperation revolved around making Japanese airports and other facilities available to the US military in case of an emergency. This year, the focus is on sharing human resources.
These moves seem to illustrate Washington and Tokyo's view that a cross-strait confrontation is inevitable. This is a sharp contrast to Taipei's inaction.
Taipei appears to be ignoring the ultimatum clearly spelled out in China's Anti-Secession Law enacted nearly two years ago.
This law seems bent on making Taiwan choose one of two options: Surrender peacefully to China soon or face war.
Even if it wanted to, the Taiwanese government could not succumb to Beijing's pressure to become part of China without sparking a rebellion in Taiwan.
War seems inevitable, unless something can deter Beijing.
For Taiwan to continue a peaceful and free existence, the government must send a clear signal to Beijing that it is determined to keep Chinese forces at bay.
Admittedly, being prepared for an attack might not necessarily prevent a regime as determined as Beijing from invading. On the other hand, neglecting to maintain the nation's defense would be a clear invitation.
This neglect could, in fact, be the single factor most likely to lead to an attack from China.
The nation has failed to enhance its defenses despite the repeated urging from US President George W. Bush's administration over the past few years.
The crux of the problem is the fact that Washington actively discourages Taiwan's formal independence while simultaneously pushing it to arm itself against China. onetheless, Washington turns a blind eye to the glaring contradiction.
The same contradiction can be seen in Washington's repeated refusal to say how it would react if Taiwan declared formal independence.
But Washington's political game may be rounding on it. Many Taiwanese now yearn for formal independence, but at the same time are uninterested in arming the nation to the teeth. Many feel that the country's military defense could not stand a chance against China's People's Liberation Army and with mixed signals from the US, building up Taiwan's military is nothing more than an exercise in futility.
Partially to blame is the US State Department's routine snubbing of President Chen Shui-bian (
Not surprisingly, this sends the message that the US could jettison Taiwan at the drop of a hat.
Moreover, the argument that a clear US backing of formal independence for Taiwan would encourage Taipei to take the big step is a myth. The Taiwanese government could not possibly underestimate what's at stake for Taiwan in a cross-strait conflict, regardless of whether the US is involved or not.
That argument has over time helped Washington justify curbing Taiwan's democratization at the behest of Beijing.
Washington's decisiveness wouldn't increase the probability for conflicts in the Strait. In fact, it is more likely to decrease the risk of conflict. This is because the US would instill confidence in Taiwan, which would encourage Taipei to put more resources into military defense, thereby keeping Beijing at bay.
All of this, of course, hinges on how all the parties involved construe the maintenance of the "status quo."
But the "status quo" has been gradually eroded by a number of factors. China has enacted an "Anti-Secession" Law and aims an ever growing number of missiles at Taiwan.
This has not been balanced by continuing the nation's democratic constitutional reforms, which Washington, in a political dance with Beijing -- opposes.
For Taiwan, heeding Washington's prescription for its situation -- buy more weapons, make no constitutional changes -- will only lead to the gradual disappearance of the status quo and Taiwan will eventually be absorbed by China.
This is hardly a prospect that enthuses Taiwanese.
Taiwan's declining will to bolster its defense capabilities could become the most unsettling factor leading to a cross-strait conflict. Washington could change the situation by changing its signals.
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