Pundits have busied themselves in the past week trying to determine whether a decision by Taipei to renegotiate US beef imports with Washington will have implications on US security commitments to Taiwan. Already, an unexpected delay in US President Barack Obama’s weapons sale notification to Congress — which had been expected soon after Obama returned from climate talks in Copenhagen last month — had prompted speculation that Washington may be tying economic matters to political ones and retaliating for the about-face.
Not only is it too soon to tell, but 60 years of US-Taiwan ties have shown that Washington, at least in Taiwan’s case, is capable of treating economics and politics as separate matters — as they should be. Likelier explanations for the delay are the conflicting interests of the State Department, the Department of Defense and the White House, as well as Obama’s balancing act with Taipei and Beijing and efforts to avoid derailing cross-strait rapprochement.
Washington handles diplomacy in multi-track fashion in that it usually rewards and punishes within related sectors. As such, it retaliates on trade with trade, and on military matters with military matters, with little cross-pollination.
Failure by Taipei to demonstrate that it takes its own defense seriously, as opposed to freeloading on US security guarantees, would be one way to invite US retaliation on arms sales. Lack of participation in non-proliferation efforts, which were somewhat undermined last month when British intelligence linked Taiwanese private firms to the sale of sensitive equipment to Iran, would be another. US beef, however, isn’t a deal-breaker on defense issues — however strongly some US policymakers feel about the matter.
The US also expects its allies to share the security burden. Nowhere has this been clearer than in Afghanistan, where US generals have made plea after plea on NATO and non-NATO allies to do more. After nine years of counterinsurgency, not only are most Western countries threatening to pull their troops, but the country remains on the brink of collapse. Facing this, the US — which is sending substantial reinforcements this year — will likely turn to those who have yet to play a role in the war-torn country to do their part.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Washington would ask Taiwan to play a role in Afghanistan. Last week, a source in the Ministry of Defense told the media that the US wants Taiwan to provide medical or engineering assistance to troops there. This request is not unprecedented: During the Gulf War in 1991, Taipei offered US$300 million toward the war effort, which Washington turned down after pressure from Beijing. More recently, Taiwan has provided medical assistance in Iraq.
Afghanistan is the story of our time, as its future direction will have a direct impact on international security. No country, however isolated, will be unaffected if the US-led alliance fails to avert Afghanistan’s implosion — not even Taiwan. As a wealthy country that has profited from the US umbrella for decades and as the world’s 20th largest military by spending, Taiwan must contribute to global stability, which would not go unnoticed in Washington.
By answering the call, Taiwan would also gain precious combat experience; in Afghanistan, there is no such thing as a non-combat position. With the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration cutting down on military exercises, combat experience would provide invaluable training — the type of training that could make a difference if Taiwan were attacked one day.
Taiwan must step up to the plate, otherwise it may be kicked out of the game altogether.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday last week, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Hsu Chiao-hsin (徐巧芯) wrote: “The KMT must fall for Taiwan to improve.’ Allow me to ask the question again: Is this really true?” It matters not how many times Hsu asks the question, my answer will always be the same: “Yes, the KMT must be toppled for Taiwan to improve.” In the lengthy Facebook post, titled “What were those born in the 1980s guilty of?” Hsu harked back to the idealistic aspirations of the 2014 Sunflower movement before heaping opprobrium on the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP)
The scuffle between Chinese embassy staffers in Fiji and a Taiwanese diplomat at a Republic of China (ROC) Double Ten National Day celebration has turned into a public relations opportunity for the government, Beijing and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Although the incident occurred on Oct. 8, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) downplayed it, only for the story to be picked up by the foreign media, forcing the ministry to respond. The public and opposition parties asked why the government had failed to remonstrate more strongly in the first instance. It is still unclear whether the ministry missed a trick
US President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, former US vice president Joe Biden, are holding their final debate tonight. In their foreign policy debate, China is sure to be a major issue of contention for the two candidates. Here are several questions the moderator should pose to the candidates: For both: In the first televised US presidential debates in 1960, then-Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy and his Republican counterpart, Richard Nixon, were asked whether the US should intervene if communist China attacked Taiwan’s outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu. Kennedy said no, unless the main island of Taiwan was also attacked.
For most of us, the colorful, otherworldly marinescapes of coral reefs are as remote as the alien landscapes of the moon. We rarely, if ever, experience these underwater wonderlands for ourselves — we are, after all, air-breathing, terrestrial creatures mostly cocooned in cities. It is easy not to notice the perilous state they are in: We have lost 50 percent of coral reefs in the past 20 years and more than 90 percent are expected to die by 2050, a presentation at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego, California, earlier this year showed. As the oceans heat further and