The US should deepen and broaden its military relations with Taiwan, a conference on military growth in the Asia-Pacific region has been told.
Project 2049 Institute executive director Mark Stokes said that Taipei could play a bigger role in US defense policy and make a significant contribution to the Pentagon’s new Air Sea Battle strategy. As the US Department of Defense and the administration of US President Barack Obama moves to rebalance its forces in the Asia-Pacific region they should rebalance relations with Taiwan, Stokes said.
Addressing an American Enterprise Institute conference on “Arms racing in Asia? Who’s winning, who’s losing,” Stokes said Taiwan could “assist and contribute” to solving US challenges.
The Washington conference was aimed at assessing the implications of major military modernization efforts in Asia.
Stokes said that despite conflicts in the South China Sea, Taiwan remained the primary “planning focus” of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
“It is still at the center of the planning scenario that the PLA uses in order to shape their future force structure,” Stokes said.
As a result, he added, Taiwan should be central to the planning of future US force structure.
“It is not that the South China Sea is not important, but rocks and water, and even navigation pale in comparison to the lives of 23 million people,” he said.
Of all the societies in the Asia-Pacific region, none understands China like Taiwan, he said.
“If one wants to understand the thinking that goes on in Beijing, one needs to look no further than Taiwan,” Stokes said.
The US Department of Defense should consider sending students to Taiwan National Defense University, he said.
Stokes argued that Taiwan was one of the most innovative societies in the world, and that it is ideally placed to help the US to be more innovative and to reduce the cost of weapons systems.
Taiwan is also ideal as a “platform for situational awareness,” not just for military purposes, but also for disaster warning, climate change and for tracking objects in space, he said.
A lot of attention has been given to Chinese cyberespionage, and Taiwan remains Beijing’s first and its most intense target of cyberespionage, he said. Over the years Taiwan’s security services have accumulated great experience in dealing with the problem and they could provide considerable help to the US, he added.
Stokes also said that Taiwan faces “the most stressing military challenge in the world.”
“If Taiwan, working together with the US, can address and meet this most significant military challenge, then the odds are the US can meet such challenges all over the world,” he said.
Stokes said that Taiwan is a “core interest” of the US and is “fundamental to US interests in the region.”
“Deepening and broadening military relations with Taiwan need not complicate our relationship with China,” he said.
However, Beijing should understand that as long as military coercion remained a central part of its broader strategy to resolve political differences with Taiwan, it was in the best interests of Washington to intensify its military relations with Taipei, he said.