Mon, Jan 01, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Stephen M. Young On Taiwan: Port calls and diplomatic outbursts

I certainly know firsthand that defense planners in Washington and at Pacific Fleet Headquarters in Honolulu have long maintained specific operational plans to respond to a direct threat to Taiwan. We can also recall then president Bill Clinton’s decision to twice deploy US aircraft carriers to the region in 1995 and again 1996. This occurred first in reaction to China decision to launch missiles off Taiwan’s shores in late 1995, following then president Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) visit to his alma mater Cornell University. Clinton again deployed two aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Strait region in spring, 1996, as Lee was running for re-election in the first democratically contested presidential elections in the island’s history.

Much has changed over the past two decades. But the commitment of American leaders in the Congress and Executive Branch to prevent any threat to Taiwan’s security remains an important facet of overall US policy toward the region. This is also extremely important to our close allies the Japanese, who understand Taiwan and its strategic position well.

Therefore one must wonder what to make of a second-tier Chinese diplomat’s intemperate outburst in Washington earlier this month. Does it reflect largely the views of a rather outspoken individual speaking out of turn? For now, this seems the most plausible explanation. But the issue bears watching.

Stephen M. Young was director of the American Institute in Taiwan from 2006 to 2009 and served as US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan and consul general in Hong Kong.

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