Mon, Oct 08, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Taiwan must boost US military ties

By Chang Yan-ting 張延廷

An “unsafe” maneuver by a Chinese destroyer on Sunday last week, which could have led to a collision with the USS Decatur in the South China Sea, is the latest sign of tensions in the region.

The US has designated China a strategic competitor. In addition to objecting to Beijing’s unilateral changes of the “status quo” in the South China Sea, the US is also keeping a close eye on China’s military expansion in the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Middle East.

The formulation of its Indo-Pacific Strategy sets the Chinese communists as a potential opponent, and seeks to constrain their Belt and Road Initiative, militarization of the South China Sea, military activities around the first island chain, and to strengthen multilateral cooperation with countries such as India.

As such, the US is positioning itself in the Korean Peninsula, the East China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, and developing a maritime security cooperation framework centered on Japan, Australia and India.

At the same time, it is lobbying Southeast Asian countries to reinstate US military bases, with the intention of providing a counterweight to China’s continued efforts to strengthen their economic presence and military deployment in the Indian Ocean.

As the trade war between China and the US intensifies, the US is continuing to dispatch fighters and ships to the South China Sea to demonstrate its freedom of navigation rights, and is also carrying out a range of drills in the region.

These efforts are aimed at checking China’s military expansion in the South China Sea, while demonstrating to other countries in the region its intention to maintain regional stability.

The US’ continued reinforcement of the links between the Indian and Pacific oceans is designed to increase deployment of its allies as part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, and improve ties between India, Australia, Japan and ASEAN member states to form a US-led buffer against China’s rise.

Even though China is India’s largest trading partner, it is also conducting frequent submarine patrols in strategic waters in the Indian Ocean, as well as investing in ports in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, which could be regarded as, in part at least, military infrastructure and activity.

This has India feeling uneasy about China potentially changing the regional balance of power in the Indian Ocean, and it is looking for a possible way of dealing with the problem.

China is looking to transform itself into a maritime power, and up to this point the main strategic flashpoint between the US and China has been the first island chain in the South China and East China seas.

As the strategic competition between the two powers is ratcheted up in the Indian Ocean, they are competing in more ways than they are cooperating, making the situation in the Indian Ocean a destabilizing factor.

With the new challenges of the strategic competition in the South China Sea, Taiwan needs to be an active participant in regional activity.

As Taiwan is an important player in the region, it needs to continue strengthening its defenses and security cooperation with neighboring countries.

Taiwan has long had military exchanges with the US, and the scale of this military activity might increase, for example with joint search-and-rescue drills in the surrounding waters and airspace.

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