Conservative foreign policy experts are warning the incoming administration of US president-elect Barack Obama that the perception of dwindling US support for Taiwan could “produce very dangerous consequences.”
In a report released on Monday, the right-wing American Enterprise Institute (AEI) said: “Taiwan is still a potential flashpoint for great power conflict. For the past eight years, even as China has continued to advance, Taiwan has not done nearly enough to improve its defenses. Nor has America done all it could to improve Taiwan’s self-defense and deter Chinese temptations toward aggression.”
The report, An American Strategy for Asia, predicted Obama would face one of the most daunting international economic and security situations since the end of the Cold War.
The report’s leading authors are Dan Blumenthal, a resident fellow at AEI, and Aaron Friedberg, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University. Both have held senior positions under US President George W. Bush.
The report said: “Beijing continues to proclaim its intention to bring Taiwan under its control and refuses to renounce the possible use of violence to achieve this end. The rapid, sustained buildup of Chinese military power across the Taiwan Strait adds credence to such threats. In the past decade, Beijing has steadily improved its ability to impose its will on Taiwan whether through intimidation and coercion or the actual use of armed force.”
The report said that an arms package agreed to by the outgoing administration was “insufficient” to correct growing imbalances.
“It is essential for the new administration to continue the 30-year-old policy of providing strategic support to Taiwan. Recently elected president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has expressed his willingness to try to negotiate a thaw in relations with China, but he also seeks US help in righting an increasingly unfavorable balance of military power,” it said
“We need to respond in a measured but timely fashion. The belief that our commitment to Taiwan may be weakening can only serve to make Beijing less accommodating while simultaneously making Taipei nervous and increasingly desperate,” the report added
The study said that Taiwan was more isolated and more threatened than it was eight years ago.
It said that if Taipei were backed into a corner it might take a page from North Korea’s book and develop a nuclear weapons program.
“Beijing has warned that any attempt by Taiwan to acquire nuclear weapons would be justification for going to war,” it said. “It is not difficult to imagine how this situation could spiral out of control.”
“It is also conceivable that a deepening sense of isolation and hopelessness could at some point cause the Taiwanese people and their government to simply give up, accepting whatever terms they could get from a triumphant mainland. If the United States permits the mainland to coerce Taiwan into accepting a settlement, Japan, Korea and our other allies and strategic partners will have good reason to question the continued reliability of America’s security guarantees,” it said. “Whatever its intrinsic strategic value, Taiwan’s fate will be vitally important for what it says about the global balance of power between China and the United States.”
“The key to an enduring, peaceful solution to the Taiwan question lies ultimately in the political liberalization of the mainland. The Taiwanese people themselves would likely be far more open to some kind of association with a democratic mainland than they currently are to placing themselves at the mercy of an unaccountable, and likely vindictive authoritarian regime,” it said.