On June 24, Center For Strategic and International Studies senior advisor for Asia Bonnie Glaser retweeted a Taipei Times article and commented: “Taiwan will join US navy drill in Solomon Islands as part of Pacific Partnership,” followed by the intriguing statement that it is “[n]ot the first time, but now being announced publicly” (“Taiwan said to be asked to join US relief drill,” June 25, page 3).
Military exchanges between Taiwan — the Republic of China (ROC) — and the US did not end with the Pacific War, even though the countries later severed diplomatic relations.
The former Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty, the “six assurances,” the US Taiwan Travel Act and the US National Defense Authorization Act for 2019 all touch on military issues.
However, the greatest difference between those and the drill referred to by Glaser is not arms purchases or military exchanges and training, but rather that joint exercises are symbolic of a military alliance.
In theory, following the normalization of relations between China — the People’s Republic of China — and the US, joint drills would not be part of US-Taiwan military exchanges, because those are the most sensitive part of US-China relations.
However, Glaser’s tweet implied that joint drills would not end just because there are no diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the US — the only difference is whether they are made public.
Glaser did not expand further on what this “semi-military alliance” is built on in the absence of any military agreements. Judging from the navy in April organizing a drill with the 62nd Special Task Force, which dates back to the US military presence in Taiwan, one could speculate that this is not simply about regular ROC army troops.
Other evidence of this special status is the insignia of the ROC military representative delegation to the US military: It is the same insignia that was worn by the Allies in the China-Burma-India Theater — of which Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) was the highest commander — during World War II.
Given the great importance that the international community gives to the use of this insignia, Taiwan’s military delegation to the US using this — and neither the ROC’s national emblem nor the Ministry of National Defense’s insignia — shows that the national army is not “a Chinese army” like some retired generals claim, but rather “the military representative that accepted Taiwan on behalf of the Allied forces.”
In other words, the military representative delegation to the US that is recognized by the US is actually the military representative of the Allied forces on Taiwan to the US, and the commander-in-chief of the nation’s armed forces has inherited Chiang’s position as the representative of the Allied forces’ commander-in-chief on Taiwan.
This is why President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) as commander-in-chief of Taiwan’s armed forces can also inspect the 62nd and 63rd special task forces, the designations assigned to the Taiwanese navy by the former US Taiwan Defense Command.
It is also why Taiwan and the US — thanks to the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the China-Burma-India Theater — can maintain the kind of relationship that Glaser referred to in her tweet.
Ou Wei-chun is a service industry legal specialist.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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