As President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) left the US on Monday, the Wall Street Journal published a hard-hitting article charging that Taiwan now “faces a new political crossroads.”
It said that following the tragic hazing death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) the entire nation had been thrown into turmoil and that the way the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) handles the scandal “could destabilize relations with both the US and China.”
Written by US-Taiwan Business Council president Rupert Hammond-Chambers, the article said that pro-China forces had jumped on the opportunity to further undermine the Ministry of National Defense (MND) and claim the military was “unworthy of robust support.”
Hammond-Chambers said Washington had “reason to worry” because the ministry was the most important pro-US institution within the government.
He said some in the KMT wanted to impose further financial restrictions on the ministry to “starve the beast” in the aftermath of the scandal.
“This would further weaken the already underfunded MND at a time when the military requires resources and support to transform itself into a modern, well-equipped and all-volunteer force,” Hammond-Chambers said.
It comes, he said, as some members of Ma’s party want him to open political and military talks with Beijing.
“The deep blue camp wants to restrict funds to the MND, claiming that China’s ongoing military build-up is nothing to worry about and that the money should be spent elsewhere,” he said. “Chinese leaders must be watching these developments with positive glee.”
“Taipei is doing more damage to its own ability to deter mainland [sic] coercion and military attack than any weapon the People’s Liberation Army could conceive,” Hammond-Chambers said.
“This damage represents a serious threat to Taiwan’s national security and by extension to the national security of the US and Japan,” he said.
Hammond-Chambers said that US President Barack Obama’s decision “rhetorically and substantially” to omit Taiwan from his pivot to Asia had telegraphed to China that Taiwan was no longer central to US policy.
“By doing so, the US is inviting Chinese adventurism,” he said.
Hammond-Chambers concluded that the US can recalibrate its Taiwan policy by restarting arms sales to Taiwan that have been stalled for two years.
“The first step should be new F-16C/D fighters, followed by assistance with the procurement of submarines,” he said.
As Ma ended his one-night stopover in the US and left New York to start a 12-day diplomatic tour of the Americas, he met with US politicians including US Representative Eliot Engel, the ranking member of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Engel said he had “a very productive conversation” with Ma about “how to reinforce the strong bond between our two countries.”
He said that more could be done to deepen economic, security and political ties.
US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez left on Monday for a nine-day visit to Asia that includes a stop in Taiwan.