Tue, Dec 13, 2011 - Page 8 News List

US has not pivoted toward Taiwan

By J. Michael Cole 寇謐將

Beyond the lack of substantial support for Taiwan, some elements within the US government also appear to be siding with Beijing in pressuring Taipei to enter political negotiations with China, ostensibly as a means to ultimately neutralize Taiwan. Counterintuitive though it may seem, some analysts are now advancing the possibility that Ma’s controversial “peace accord” proposal was aimed at deflecting pressure from Washington first, and Beijing second, to engage in such a process. In other words, the proposal, which, as expected, had a dent in Ma’s approval rate ahead of the January elections, was not intended as a message for domestic constituents, but rather outside forces that have grown impatient with his “foot dragging” on unification.

How else could we explain the ill-timed proposal, which Ma and his advisers surely knew would have a negative effect on their campaign? By submitting the idea of a peace accord, but offering a timeline that goes well beyond his second term if he is re-elected, Ma likely sought to pacify external forces while minimizing the cost domestically, aware that the great majority of Taiwanese regard political talks with the Chinese Communist Party with great apprehension. A president who is in a hurry to enter political negotiations with Beijing would not have anchored the possibility of a peace accord in the distant future, which in Taiwanese politics, a decade certainly is.

A US government that pivots in Taiwan’s favor is one that will stop showing impatience with Taipei as it navigates the hazardous waters of cross-strait relations and unreservedly side with the goals and wishes of Taiwan’s 23 million people. Anything short of such a commitment, regardless of how many senior envoys Washington parades in the Presidential Office, will remain conduct unworthy of an ally.

J. Michael Cole is deputy news editor at the Taipei Times.

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