Fri, Sep 29, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Increased US presence in region

By Parris Chang 張旭成

Both houses of the US Congress have voted to pass the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 and raise the level of Taiwan-US military exchanges. The bill must be finalized following negotiations between the US Senate and the House of Representatives before US President Donald Trump can sign it and it takes effect.

According to the bill, the US secretary of defense should submit an assessment report on naval port of call exchanges between the two nations, enhancement of Taiwan’s undersea warfare capabilities, invitations to Taiwanese military forces to participate in joint military exercises and military exchanges between senior officers and officials of Taiwan and the US.

The most sensitive issue among the proposed cooperation and exchanges is the naval port of call exchanges. As early as July, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty said that such exchanges were difficult and dangerous.

Beijing’s response was even stronger. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) authorities are concerned that if the authorization act is implemented, US military forces will be able to legally return to Taiwan.

In response to the suggested naval port of call exchanges, China’s Ministry of National Defense expressed its firm opposition and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanded that the US follow its “one China” policy, the Three Joint Communiques and other related promises.

An editorial in Chinese state-run tabloid the Global Times and on its Web site complained loudly, asking what would happen if US destroyers or perhaps even aircraft carriers were allowed to call on Taiwanese ports for a few days, weeks or perhaps months — or maybe to hang around and never leave.

The editorial said US Navy vessels calling on Taiwanese ports would constitute an invasion of Chinese territory and sovereignty, and asked that Beijing authorities draw a clear and unambiguous line for Taiwan and the US and be prepared for a showdown.

Showing that it would not stop at war, the editorial went on to call for “military attacks on facilities in military ports receiving US military vessels” and said that “if Taiwan retaliates, the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] should launch another attack on the Taiwanese military that retaliated. If US vessels participated in the retaliation, the Chinese side should sink the US vessels.”

CCP mouthpieces in Taiwan have expressed doubts that Trump would sign the bill into law as he wants China to help handle the North Korean nuclear threat and is planning a visit to Beijing in November.

Trump is displeased with Beijing’s lack of a true effort to restrain North Korea and make it denuclearize. Addressing the UN General Assembly on Sept. 19, he issued a strong condemnation of China’s continued business relations with North Korea, a rogue state, without mentioning China’s name.

“It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict,” he said.

The national defense authorization bill for next year was passed by a majority in both houses of Congress, and even if Trump were to veto the bill, the veto could be overturned. For this reason, Trump will not oppose the bill. Instead, the question is whether he intends to implement it.

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