Editorial: Taiwan's defense in US hands

Sun, Oct 29, 2006 - Page 8

Comments by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week regarding the US' commitment to help Taiwan defend itself were nothing new. However, they came in the wake of regional tension over the nuclear test by North Korea and in response to questions over Taiwan's role in international efforts to deal with the crisis.

Most people in Taiwan do not see the nuclear test as something which will have an immediate effect on their lives. Nevertheless, if the crisis continues to escalate -- which at this point seems inevitable -- Taiwan cannot possibly stay clear out of it.

Leaving aside the immediate issue of potential environmental contamination caused by further nuclear tests or indeed a nuclear conflict, for the simple reason that China plays a key role in the North Korean crisis, any resulting shift or instability in the regional balance of power will inevitably affect the cross-strait relationship.

Since Taiwan is neither a member of the UN nor was invited to participate in the six-party talks on the issue, the nation is not expected to have a say on how the crisis should be managed. While many may decry the unfairness of this, it is a political reality that is not likely to change.

Under the circumstances, Rice's statement on the US' commitment to help Taiwan defend itself should help allay the sense of helplessness felt by some Taiwanese in the aftermath of the nuclear test.

On the other hand, it just so happens that Rice's comments were made at around the same time that the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission -- a US government advisory panel -- was getting ready to approve a report that highlights China's advanced military capabilities.

The report depicted Taiwan as becoming increasingly dependent on the US to deter Chinese aggression and to intervene should such aggression turn to use of force.

The situations described in the report are a cause for concern, especially in light of the fact that it also described a "window of vulnerability" from 2008 to 2015 in the military capability of Washington to intervene in the event of any cross-strait military crisis.

However, the politicians and people of Taiwan seemingly remain largely indifferent to world events -- not only with respect to the North Korean crisis but also to the implications of the US "window of vulnerability" and the increasing military threat posed by China.

Otherwise, it is hard to understand why pan-blue lawmakers, especially Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators, decided to break their promise -- which was made in a meeting organized by Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) -- and blocked the placement of a supplemental budget for the purchase of US arms on the legislative floor last week.

The supplemental budget was the product of a compromise between the ruling and opposition camps to begin with, approving greatly reduced funds in comparison with the funding initially requested for the arms procurement program.

In light of these events, the arms bill is likely to remain a hostage of the deadlocked legislature. The likelihood of the nation becoming less reliant on US protection is remote.