US President Barack Obama naming Taiwan as one of the US’ partners in the global battle against terrorism might have come across as a nod to the nation’s aid to Syrian refugees to some, but his remarks at the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur were not only hypocritical, but have put the nation in danger of being targeted by Muslim extremists.
What Taiwan has done to empower Syrian refugees is remotely, if at all, relevant to tensions between the US and Muslim nations or militia. The contributions Taiwan made were driven by its commitment to humanitarian relief — it has not made any official statements or entered into any agreements with the US or any other nation to take on Muslim extremists.
Taiwan is generally neutral and harmless to Muslims, which has left many at a loss as to why the nation has been targeted by the Islamic State (IS) group, and Obama failed to do Taiwan any justice by naming it as a partner in the US’ antiterrorism campaign.
The move is especially reprehensible when one considers the limited role the US has played in helping Taiwan join any international organizations that would help it break free from Beijing’s shackles.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) on Wednesday made a timely and emphatic point when he said that the US has adopted a nonchalant stance on Taiwan’s bids to join the UN or other organizations, and that Obama only mentions Taiwan when he wants to conduct business or assign work.
It is evident that Obama’s recent trip to Asia is part of Washington’s move to push its “pivot to Asia” policy, aimed at restoring the US’ economic and strategic influence, and weakening China’s growing dominance in the region. His deliberate omission of China as a partner against terrorism has further underlined that point, given that Beijing last week vowed to tackle terrorists after footage purportedly released by IS showed the beheading of a Chinese hostage.
While the US retains an important role in maintaining peace across the Taiwan Strait, Obama should not have gotten Taiwan involved in the US’ war against militant Muslim groups, which has put Taiwan’s national security at risk. After all, the US has been aloof about Taiwan’s struggle to fight for international space for so long, and there is no justifying Obama’s dangerous name-throwing just to further the US’ own political aims.
An IS threat to target Taiwan led some to panic, but it also produced a rare example of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) acting in unison.
Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, unaware of the ensuing danger, expressed its gratitude over Obama’s recognition of Taiwan’s efforts to counter terrorism, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) clarified the nation’s role in the global fight against terrorism, saying that its efforts only included humanitarian relief assistance and that such actions are not directed at IS.
Ministry spokeswoman Eleanor Wang (王珮玲) made it clear that the nation’s role in the fight against terrorism is confined to providing humanitarian and emergency response assistance — comments that were echoed by DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who called on China to step up its commitment to combat terrorists.
As with any talks at the international level, the two parties, intentionally or otherwise, have sent a clear message not only to IS, but also to Obama: “Keep Taiwan out of your fight.”
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