Fri, Jan 27, 2017 - Page 8 News List

US-China row and Taiwan’s choice

By Parris Chang 張旭成

With the enactment of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, US-Taiwan military ties will be elevated and broadened. There would be senior military exchanges and enhanced military cooperation between the two nations. The Trump administration is solicitous of Taiwan’s defense needs and will likely forge closer military cooperation, including sales of sophisticated arms, such as fifth-generation warplanes — F35B jets, with stealth capabilities and vertical take-off and landing systems.

It is reassuring that Trump’s US secretary of state-designate Rex Tillerson has expressed his ardent commitment to support and implement the Taiwan Relations Act and the “six assurances.” His harsh criticism of China’s construction of artificial islands and the militarization of the South China Sea, as well as his veiled threat to block China’s access to the islands with force, provides a stark contrast to former US president Barack Obama’s administration’s muted and weak response to China’s audacious seizure of a US underwater drone in waters off the Philippines last month.

This is a powerful indication that the US, under Trump, is firm, resolved and ready to meet the challenge of China’s expansionism and hegemonic ambitions in the Asia-Pacific region.

On several occasions Tsai has assured US friends that Taiwan will be a dependable regional security partner. Undoubtedly, the US values Taiwan’s strategic importance and welcomes Taiwan’s vital role in safeguarding peace and security in the region. Many Americans have also urged the Tsai government to increase defense spending and invest in Taiwan’s security and national defense. First thing should come first — Taiwan must choose and act on its top priority.

Parris Chang is professor emeritus of political science at Pennsylvania State University and president of the Taiwan Institute for Political, Economic and Strategic Studies.

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