Fri, Jan 20, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Revisiting the ‘one China’ policy

By John Bolton

Basing rights and related activity do not imply a full defense alliance. US activities would not be dissimilar to Singapore’s, although they could be more extensive. The Taiwan Relations Act is expansive enough to encompass such a relationship, so new legislative authority is unnecessary.

Some may object that a US military presence would violate the Shanghai Communique, but the language of the Taiwan Relations Act should take precedence. Circumstances in the region are fundamentally different from 1972, as Beijing would be the first to proclaim.

Nearby Asian governments would cite the enormous increase in Chinese military power and belligerence. Most important, effectively permanent changes in the Taiwan-China relationship have occurred, making much of the communique obsolete. The doctrine of rebus sic stantibus — things thus standing — justifies taking a different perspective than in 1972.

Taiwan’s geographic location is closer to East Asia’s mainland and the South China Sea than either Okinawa or Guam, giving US forces greater flexibility for rapid deployment throughout the region should the need arise.

Washington might also help ease tensions with Tokyo by redeploying at least some US forces from Okinawa, a festering problem in the US-Japan relationship. Moreover, the current Philippine leadership offers little chance of increasing military and other cooperation there in the foreseeable future.

Guaranteeing freedom of the seas, deterring military adventurism and preventing unilateral territorial annexations are core US interests in East and Southeast Asia. Today, as opposed to 1972, a closer military relationship with Taiwan would be a significant step toward achieving these objectives. If China disagrees, by all means let us talk.

John Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. This article first appeared in print in the Wall Street Journal.

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