Tue, Feb 13, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Nullifying cross-strait agreements?

By Lau Yi-te 劉一德

Due to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and her government’s policy of maintaining the “status quo” with China and its refusal to acknowledge the so-called “1992 consensus,” the past political foundation for the claim that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to “one China” no longer exists.

In just over a year, discussion of a Chinese military invasion of Taiwan has been elevated to talk of a timetable for military unification. Beijing has also substantially stepped up its propaganda campaign and military scare tactics against Taiwan.

Taiwan has gone from being a frog in a slowly warming pot of water to an almost throughly cooked duck.

How should Taiwan deal with Beijing’s bullying tactic of death by asphyxiation? Should Taiwan strengthen its “auto-immune system” by building up its defenses, or should it place its trust in the US coming to its rescue? Or perhaps Taiwan should just raise the white flag and hope against hope to improve the cross-strait relationship? These are questions that can no longer be avoided.

Since the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th National Congress last year, China’s military commanders have used aircraft carrier exercises and warplanes to circle Taiwan, as well as unilaterally launched a new civil aviation route that is close to the median line of the Taiwan Strait. The disputed M503 aviation route not only shows a complete disregard for aviation safety and regional stability, it is a clear military provocation that no sovereign nation should ever countenance.

To assess whether Taiwan has the ability to defend itself and resist an invasion, it would be instructive to examine whether the government’s response is sufficiently robust and whether legislators, whose duty is to represent the democratic will of the public, support the Tsai administration.

Public debate and discussion over the disputed aviation route is not limited to Taiwan; media in other countries, including Japan, the US and Switzerland, have reported on the issue, while the European Parliament and the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association have criticized China.

However, the response from the Tsai administration has been mealymouthed and feeble: temporarily denying requests from two Chinese airlines for additional flights during the Lunar New Year period and calling on Chinese officials to immediately open technical discussions. The response seems excessively passive and deferential — to the extent that some have even questioned whether the government is not shooting itself in the foot.

Claiming that cross-strait peace was at a 60-year high, then-president Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration in 2015 signed the Cross-strait Agreement on Civil Aviation Safety and Test Flight Cooperation (兩岸民航飛航安全與適航合作協議). At the time it was said that the agreement would, based on the principles of equitability and reciprocity, guarantee aviation safety and a supervisory mechanism for test flights.

However, Beijing’s only intent was to use the agreement as a tool in its “united front” strategy. Right from the get-go, China never respected the negotiation mechanism, so the pact simply imposed unilateral restrictions on Taiwan.

Not only does the aviation agreement threaten regional peace and stability, it casts aside any considerations of the rights and safety of passengers. The government must come up with more effective polices to deal with this issue.

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