There is nothing intrinsically wrong with politicians calling for peace: Countries of the world should seek ways to coexist. This does not mean, however, that we should seek peace in blind fashion or by neglecting to take account of reality.
But this is what New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming (郁慕明) suggested last week when he called on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to uphold his promise not to use force across the Taiwan Strait. Days ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Kinmen, in which close to 600 soldiers and civilians were killed during the Chinese bombardment, Yok, whose party is a strong advocate of unification with China, turned reality on its head and asked the victim to stop threatening the aggressor.
It was like asking Belgium to stop threatening Germany on the eve of World War II.
It is true that the situation today is drastically different from that in 1958, when Taiwan under dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) had a threatening posture toward China and sought to retake it by force. But though events that occurred half a century ago should guide us, they should not freeze us in time. The fact remains that it is China, not Taiwan, that advocates violence. The People’s Liberation Army has continued to modernize at a worrying pace and has a substantial deployment of aggressive weapons. Despite Ma’s efforts at cross-strait rapprochement, none of Beijing’s policies regarding its response to a unilateral declaration of independence by Taipei have changed.
What makes Yok sound even more unrealistic is the fact that he is calling on the head of a state equipped only with defensive weapons to refrain from using force against China. With the exception, perhaps, of its fighter aircraft, Taiwan’s military is meant to defend the land until help arrives. It has very little projection capabilities outside its area of responsibility. Aside from making absolutely no sense politically, launching an attack against China would be nothing less than suicidal.
Gone are the days when a messianic dictator like Chiang sought nuclear weapons or advocated their use against China and later, to prove his mettle as a Cold Warrior, in Vietnam. With democratization in Taiwan came the overdue admission that China could not be “retaken” by force and soon afterwards, as Taiwanese consciousness blossomed, all but the most hardcore members of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) old guard accepted that China and Taiwan were two very distinct entities that should seek to live peacefully side by side. This is the accepted paradigm in Taiwan today, which makes Yok’s call sound completely hollow, if not foolish.
In his misguided appeal, Yok seems to have failed to distinguish between a power-projecting military and the need for national defense. While an argument can be made against developing an aggressive military, a purely defensive military such as the one Taiwan, with US assistance, has developed over the years not only threatens no one but also gives it the wherewithal to negotiate peace on a more level playing field. None of the weapons systems included in the delayed US arms package, which perhaps Yok would like to see mothballed, would change that.
No matter how one paints it, Taiwan is the victim here, not the aggressor.