Wed, Jun 22, 2011 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: ‘No surprises’ cable is no surprise

It appears there are forces at work both in Washington and Taipei that would sell Taiwan out and have Beijing ride roughshod all over the nation’s democratic achievements. This was revealed in comments by US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chairperson of the US House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, and in a cable released by WikiLeaks that quoted promises made by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

Ros-Lehtinen, a staunch supporter of the US’ democratic allies, last week castigated a certain element in Washington foreign policy circles that would “appease” China by selling out Taiwan. At a hearing before the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee called “Why Taiwan Matters,” Ros-Lehtinen said some foreign policy pundits were suggesting it was time to recognize the rise of China and cut ties to Taiwan.

Randall Schriver, a former US Department of State and Department of Defense official, went further, saying that the administration of US President Barack Obama had low aspirations for Taiwan, and that the US had severely neglected its duty to sufficiently help Taiwan maintain the ability to defend itself.

Meanwhile, US administration and foreign policy pundits who favor appeasement of China over standing up for a long-time US ally — Taiwan — must have been highly pleased to hear the promises that Ma was quoted to have made in the WikiLeaks cable. According to a cable on March 20, 2009, American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt said Ma had promised not to ask for certain transit arrangements, not to ask for certain weapons and not to insist on the use of “certain names.”

Effectively, Ma voluntarily decided to forgo previous courtesies shown to Taiwanese leaders, downgrade arms purchases from the US and refrain from insisting on the use of Taiwan’s proper designation. No wonder the Obama administration has dragged its feet on selling advanced weapons to Taiwan — Ma sent the signal loud and clear that he didn’t want them. All of his calls thereafter for the US to sell F-16C/Ds to Taiwan have been nothing but exhaust fumes meant to placate those in Taiwan who are genuinely concerned about the dramatically tilting cross-strait military imbalance.

So, in Washington, there are political circles that want to abandon Taiwan and in Taipei there is a political party that wants to throw in the towel and shackle itself to authoritarian China. With a situation like that, what hope does Taiwan have?

It appears that Taiwan’s only hope of remaining a sovereign country lies in the hands of allies like Ros-Lehtinen and pragmatic local politicians like Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ying-wen (蔡英文).

Ros-Lehtinen has called for upgrading the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) through the use of US Congressional oversight to actually enforce the principles enshrined in the law. Congress authored the TRA in 1979 for a reason — politicians back then knew that US administrations might have the tendency to abandon Taiwan if the political winds were right and if the cost of defending Taiwan grew. If Ros-Lehtinen has her way, it won’t matter who is in the White House, Washington will have to live up to its commitment to Taipei.

Tsai has demonstrated her willingness to engage China in the way that it must be engaged, from a stance of strength, and not through kowtowing weakness as the Ma administration has done. Tsai, although seeking to enhance relations with Beijing, would not back off from her promise to protect Taiwan’s interests.

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