Wed, Jul 17, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan on front line of geopolitics

By Chen Yung-chang 陳永昌

The latest US arms sale to Taiwan, which includes M1A2T Abrams tanks and Stinger missiles, was previously reported to be temporarily shelved. As the deal was officially approved and promulgated by the US Department of State and the US Congress was officially notified of the approval on Monday, the sale is expected to take effect in one month if everything goes well.

According to a Time magazine report on June 24, US President Donald Trump’s administration had temporarily set aside the planned arms sales in a bid to facilitate a swift end to the US-China trade dispute, and prevent unexpected problems from arising during Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

Although talk of Taiwan being used as a bargaining chip might not be groundless or fake news, the actual development proved that Taiwan did not become Trump’s gift to Xi.

With his Wall Street background, US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin is generally considered a representative of the dovish faction in Trump’s administration that advocates mending relations with China. In the Time report, an anonymous US defense official was quoted as saying that Mnuchin was “holding up a final decision” on the arms sale, suggesting that Mnuchin is a fellow traveler of the pro-China faction in the US government in an attempt to weaken his political influence and invalidate his proposal’s legitimacy.

Behind-the-scenes political news such as this exposes the serious political conflict between factions within the Trump administration that are trying to influence public opinion to attack their political opponents.

The news media constantly make big a fuss about these remarks and corrode Trump’s prestige as a leader. Taiwan has involuntarily become involved in the jostling for power in US politics. The US$2.22 billion arms sale package, including 108 M1A2T Abrams tanks and 250 Stinger missiles, fully conforms with US policy of bringing more job opportunities to the US.

Even though the approval process was slightly delayed, it was but a customary negotiating trick by Trump and a strategy of political expediency in consideration of Beijing before the meeting with Xi.

When talks got stuck again, Trump once again played his best trick — imposing “maximum pressure” — by approving the arms sale, a huge unexpected gift from Washington to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) before she embarked on her state visit to four allies in the Caribbean, which involved stopovers in the US.

The arms sale was not canceled as a gift to please Xi ahead of the meeting, while Xi came well-prepared and played the North Korea card.

After Xi’s meeting with summit host Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on June 27, public broadcaster NHK aired an exclusive interview with Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs First China and Mongolia Division Director Keiichi Iwamoto, who was present at the two leaders’ meeting.

Iwamoto said that during the meeting, Xi confirmed that he had relayed Abe’s goodwill offer to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to improve bilateral relations between Japan and North Korea.

According to the Japanese state media’s interpretation, a national leader relaying messages between two other leaders was unprecedented, and that Xi did so was extraordinarily significant.

Extending Abe this favor indirectly confirmed the predictions by the New York Times and other media outlets when Xi visited Pyongyang before the meeting with Trump — Xi intends to act as an intermediary between Trump and Kim, and playing the North Korea card was Xi’s goodwill gift to Trump.

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