Tue, Jul 14, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Yonaguni Island and changing relations

By HoonTing 雲程

The US and Japan are preparing to deploy troops to Yonaguni Island, giving rise to two interpretations in Taiwan: either the move is aimed at China or at Taiwan. The former interpretation is based on the traditional view of containment, while the latter predicts that Taiwan will become part of China.

The US is deploying Apache attack helicopters on Yonaguni, and this is alarming. The deployment is not aimed at controlling air space but is a preparation to defend the island and evacuate residents if Taiwan loses air supremacy.

There are plenty of examples from history of one party boosting its rival’s expectations by making concessions that eventually lead to war. Western European tolerance of Nazi Germany is a case in point.

President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “pro-China, anti-Japan” policy will not ensure long-term security across the Taiwan Strait, and this is the reason for the US military deployment despite the US Department of State’s praise of Ma.

It is crucial to understand international relations. In the West, a complex power map with the US and Britain at its heart has gone unchallenged for decades.

Other countries have their roles in the power structure as well, including Taiwan and South Korea. But given the importance to China and Japan of South Korea and the US bases there, Taiwan falls behind South Korea in the power hierarchy.

Small countries often cannot choose which side they are on. This applies to a certain extent to South Korea, not to mention Taiwan, whose status remains undetermined.

The reality is that if Taiwan is not subordinate to the US, it is subordinate to China. The question is whether Washington wants to maintain the US-Japan alliance or wants to embrace its “natural partner on the Asian mainland.” This is closely related to the competition for influence between Germany and France and between Japan and China.

What does the future hold? Taiwanese are worried and Japanese are confused about Taiwan’s position and even their own. As vanquished nations, Germany and Japan have become the fists of the victors, the US and the UK, by hosting US military bases.

The US’ global position is built on its position as the main constituent of the alliances that won two world wars. If Washington abandons this position, international relations will return to the disorderly 19th century situation, with a lack of focus and chaotic wars.

The US is likely to transform from a superpower with total control to a sovereign leader in charge of global, feudal cooperation. The point of departure for this paradigmatic change is the framework of the existing NATO and US-Japan alliances. This gives us a glimpse of the soft power that the administration of US President Barack Obama has discussed.

The key for two countries wanting to maintain their friendship lies in cultural, economic and military cooperation, such as Taiwan’s cooperation with the US and Japan.

If culture and economy are separated from military cooperation, it could have unforeseen consequences, bringing confusion to the relationship between the US, China and Japan.

One example of this is the government’s push for an economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) while trying to maintain the Taiwan Strait median line.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Director Wang Yi (王毅) has reportedly called for opening the median line and building mutual military trust. This is a consequence of rapid reconciliation and the isolation of culture and the economy over the past year. It will lead to changes to the relationship between the US and Japan.

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