President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has adopted a policy of “accommodating” Beijing, a former US official told a congressional hearing on Chinese military and economic aggression.
John Tkacik, a former US diplomat and expert on Chinese and Taiwanese affairs, testified that over the past few months, there had been “an entirely new change in the political posture of Taiwan.”
He said that under the Ma administration, Taiwan now “basically agrees” that it is part of China.
Tkacik, who served as the US Department of State’s chief China analyst, added that once Taiwan makes that choice, “you are looking at Taiwan moving out of the column of the community of democracies.”
Taiwan could become part of China’s security interests, he said.
Tkacik said that Taiwan still had a sophisticated basing structure, including phased array radar systems designed to scan China for ballistic missile launches, but in future the radar systems could be turned around to scan the Western Pacific and monitor US military activity.
Similarly, Taiwan’s deep-water ports could become home to China’s diesel-electric submarines, he said.
“There is also a possibility of China-Taiwan cooperation against Japan and the United States in the East China Sea,” he said. “This is what we are looking at. President Ma now has a very clear China policy, but he does not have an America policy.”
Tkacik told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing that under US President Barack Obama and former US president George W. Bush, Washington had “cut Taiwan loose.”
“Taiwan is now in a phase where they feel they have no support in the United States. The US government is not supporting a Taiwan that is part of the network of Asian democracies,” he said. “When faced with that kind of situation, the Taiwanese voters say there is no sense in voting for any kind of government that is going to challenge China because we are not going to get any support.”
“If that were to change, it would make a big difference in Taiwan’s electoral process,” he said.
As of now, Tkacik said, the government in Taipei is adopting policies that are moving “inexorably” toward China.
Larry Wortzel, a member of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, told the committee that he thought Tkacik was right.
However, he stressed that Ma was acting with the support of the legislature and voters.
US Representative Howard Berman, the ranking Democrat on the committee, asked those testifying if the Obama administration’s offer to upgrade Taiwan’s aging F-16 aircraft was sufficient for the nation’s self-defense.
Dean Cheng (成斌), a research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, said the upgrades were directed at aircraft that were already 20 years old.
“Every aircraft that is being upgraded is being pulled off the line for an extended period of time. That means the net number of aircraft that Taiwan can put in the air is reduced,” Cheng said. “The proposed sale of new F-16C/Ds would replace aircraft that were designed in the 1950s.”
Cheng said that not selling the F-16C/Ds to Taiwan meant the Taiwanese air force was being reduced through “sheer attrition and age,” without China having to do anything.