Mon, Jan 21, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Looking behind Ma's 'three noes'

By Ralph Cossa

But, it is not too much to challenge Beijing, after the Taiwanese presidential election, to make a conditional no use of force pledge; namely, that "as long as the Taiwanese authorities do not take steps toward de jure independence, China will remain completely committed to a peaceful resolution to the cross-strait issue." This is, in fact, consistent with China's stance and also with the "Anti-Secession" Law. It would set a positive tone for the future development of cross-strait relations, especially if accompanied by a freeze or (preferably) reduction in the number of Chinese missiles pointed toward Taiwan. In keeping with the "no use of force" pledge, the new administration in Taipei might also want to give serious consideration to scrapping its own offensive missile program.

Let me end with a bold (although some may say unrealistic or hopelessly naive) suggestion. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) has a clean slate in proclaiming his own list of assurances. Why not state, in the interest of (finally) having a bipartisan cross-strait policy, that he is also willing to endorse and adopt a similar "no reunification, no independence and no use of force" policy?

Such a move would help depoliticize Taiwan's most important and sensitive national security issue. It would help assure Beijing and Washington that the "new" DPP -- now under Hseih's leadership -- is genuinely determined to set a more cooperative course. It would also reinforce the shared DPP/KMT goal of increasing Taiwan's "international breathing space," a goal that some say can only be realistically accomplished with Beijing's acquiescence.

It would limit the impact of the upcoming UN referendum and also help limit Chen's options if he is tempted to try to institutionalize his own more controversial and divisive approach toward cross-strait relations either before the election or during the post-election, pre-May 20 inauguration period.

In short, it would serve Taiwan's, Beijing's and Washington's national security interests and create a long overdue "win, win, win" scenario.

Ralph Cossa is president of the Pacific Forum CSIS, a Honolulu-based non-profit research institute affiliated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

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