The Liberty Times Editorial: Concern over national security staff

Wed, Mar 12, 2014 - Page 8

With the advent of the global village and globalization, many traditional geographic and political borders have been broken down. Today, events from all corners of the world affect everyone in some way.

Taiwan is a small nation that is dependent on international trade.

The National Security Council (NSC) advises President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on national security issues. In the increasingly interlinked international community, and in particular with regard to the complex China issue, which concerns the survival and future development of the nation, it is important to know that the NSC has a fix on domestic and international issues that could affect national security.

This is a question of unprecedented importance.

As outgoing Representative to the US King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) prepares to take up a position as council secretary-general, there has been much discussion and several opinions formed about the appointment and about King.

There are many who question whether the appointment is legal and constitutional. There is no need for such uncertainty because the law is clear, and if certain lines are crossed, then the appointment should be regarded as illegal and unconstitutional.

At the same time, it is easy to compare senior presidential advisers by their expertise and international experience, and this can help the public evaluate the appropriateness of King’s appointment.

Taiwan has close ties with China, Japan and South Korea. These countries have different systems of constitutional government.

Recent international tension and spats that have occurred over the past few months have caused these three nations to create their own versions of the National Security Council. This has put a spotlight on the council and demonstrates the high degree of importance each nation places on its national security.

Japan’s council — which was enacted and immediately brought into existence in December last year amid threatening behavior from China over sovereignty over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) and Beijing’s announcement of an East China Sea air defense identification zone — set up a direct hotline to the leaders of the UK, the US, South Korea, Russia, Australia and India as part of a drive to improve international collaboration.

The secretariat of the Japanese National Security Council is called the National Security Secretariat, and it will be headed by Shotaro Yachi.

To ensure efficiency, Yachi is to be stationed in the prime minister’s office.

Yachi has held several important positions, including those of Japanese vice minister for foreign affairs and special advisor to the Cabinet of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and he penned the idea of diplomacy based on the values of democracy and liberty — the “arc of freedom and prosperity.”

The two deputy heads hail from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defense, demonstrating the level of expertise it has been deemed necessary to employ.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye is no shrinking violet.

She has established a National Security Office as part of a reorganization of the presidential office, the Blue House. The office is to focus mainly on the changing situation on the Korean Peninsula and within Northeast Asia.

With the reorganization, the structure of command has been designed to optimize rapid response capability to a situation very much in flux.

The man appointed to lead the office, former South Korean minister of national defense Kim Jang-soo, is a former army chief of staff with a wealth of diplomatic experience having been stationed in the US for a while. Kim is responsible for chairing weekly meetings on foreign relations and national defense, coordinating defense policies and proposing strategy to the president.

When necessary, he will also be called to convene the South Korean security council. This re-organization is core to Park’s stronger emphasis on national security issues.

In China, after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee’s Third Plenum passed the establishment of its own security council, Chinese State Councilor and Secretary-General of the Foreign Affairs Leading Group Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) will be responsible for liaising with South Korea, in an attempt to dissipate suspicions between the two countries.

China’s establishment of its council is different as it was ordered by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and is led by the CCP.

However, it does highlight the existence of mounting regional tensions with its goals of “effectively address[ing] the recent territorial disputes between neighboring countries.”

Not only is tension intensifying over the Diaoyutais, so are tensions over control in the South China Sea as well as internal problems with Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibetan nationalism.

Taiwan also falls within the scope of China’s national security concerns. This shows that Taiwan’s own concerns are of a different kind altogether.

When considering Taiwan’s council and the person appointed to head it given this international context — putting aside for the time being any suspicions of covert authorization from an outside party — the council is, from a purely legal perspective, an advisory body responsible for assisting the president in deciding policy concerning national security.

This is the same for that of the original template for the council — the US National Security Council.

Even when it was headed by former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, it was not responsible for formulating policy.

In Taiwan’s case, national security refers to a very specific and clear scope: national defense, foreign relations, cross-strait affairs and matters related to major changes to these areas.

The legal stipulations of the functions and powers of the council’s secretary-general are to “carry out the president’s orders, and in line with NSC resolutions, deal with council affairs and direct and supervise staff.”

Not fulfilling this role amounts to dereliction of duty, while overstepping the law amounts to an abuse of power. There is no place for confusion concerning this role.

In other words, when King emphasized that he will not influence the year-end elections, he should instead have said that he “is not allowed” to do so.

Whether what he says and what he ends up doing are one and the same thing remains to be seen.

Then there was his declaration that his new job description included promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

It is much more than that, and his words betray his complete failure to grasp the situation Taiwan is in regarding its current international status. When King says things like this, how can the public not be worried?

For the past few years, the government has shown a lack of leadership and a rapid descent into formalities and incompetency that risks marginalizing the nation. This is the biggest national security issue of today.

Translated by Paul Cooper