It is difficult to understand how one person can put so many misconceptions and distortions into one essay as John Copper did (“Could US policy abandon Taiwan?” May 11, page 8).
Copper has been around for some time, but from his vantage point in Memphis, Tennessee, he does not have the foggiest idea of how Washington works and what people in the US capital think. In a highly irresponsible manner he weaves a tale of misconstructions and outright falsehoods.
For example, he wrote that in 2009, during a meeting with Chinese leaders in Beijing, US President Barack Obama concurred that Taiwan is in China’s “core interest.”
Beijing’s leaders may want us to believe that, but the Obama administration specifically emphasized after the meeting that it did not “concur” on that point.
It is also a falsehood to state that the US Department of State “doesn’t like Taiwan and would not mind giving it to China.”
The US State Department is a professional organization run by people skilled in diplomacy and is not given to primitive knee-jerk reactions, as ascribed to it by Copper.
Then Copper turns his wild-eyed “analysis” to the US Congress and asserts that it is preoccupied elsewhere and that the “Taiwan issue” does not resonate with new congressional members.
Yes, the US Congress is presently quite busy with budget issues and all that, but both the unofficial representation of the Taiwanese government and the Taiwanese-American community ensure that it remains abreast of developments so that when the time comes, Congress will be on the right side of history.
One also has to wonder how many new members of the US Congress Copper has communicated with. Or is this yet another one of his wild assumptions? Just citing the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) is not a measure for the depth of support for Taiwan in the US legislature.
What are the reasons why the US should support Taiwan?
First and foremost, Taiwan is a democracy, and a rather young one at that. It was only 20 years ago that Taiwanese — with a little help from the US — brought about a momentous transition to democracy. If the US wants democracy to prevail in East Asia, it had better stand by its allies.
Second, Taiwan matters economically and technologically. Most of the information technology gadgets, such as iPhones, iPads and so on, are designed in Taiwan. The country plays the same role in the -information-technology industry as Saudi Arabia in the oil industry. If it were absorbed by China, there would be a gaping hole in the international industrial supply chain with unforeseen consequences.
Third, because of its location Taiwan is of strategic importance, not only to the US, but also to Japan and South Korea: More than 85 percent of the oil for those two countries comes through the Taiwan Strait, which is still an open sea lane. If Taiwan was to be unified with China, Japan and South Korea would become very nervous.
For all these reasons, the US will continue its policy of support for Taiwan, ensuring — as stated in the TRA — that there will be a peaceful resolution and that the US will help maintain peace, security and stability in the Western-Pacific region, so Taiwanese can decide their future freely without interference from an authoritarian China.
Gerrit van der Wees is editor of Taiwan Communique, a -Washington-based publication.