Mon, Jul 09, 2018 - Page 1 News List

MAC tells Beijing not to overreact

BROADSIDE:The Taiwan Affairs Office said that the US was playing ‘the Taiwan card’ and China was ‘resolutely opposed’ to actions harmful to its national interests

By Peng Wan-hsin, Aaron Tu and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Beijing should not overreact to the passage on Saturday of two US Navy vessels through the Taiwan Strait, and not blame others for its own actions that have disturbed peace and stability in the region, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said yesterday.

China’s military exercises near Taiwan were meant to intimidate the public and force them into accepting Beijing’s unilateral determinations for the cross-strait relationship, the council said in a statement.

It is obvious to everyone who the party is that is threatening the Republic of China’s (ROC) sovereignty and the public’s well-being, the council said, hours after China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Liu Jieyi (劉結一) said that the Chinese government is “resolutely opposed to any acts that bring harm to Chinese national interests.”

Liu also accused Washington of playing the “Taiwan card” in reference to the ships’ maneuvers.

The US’ motives were very clear: The US is “harming the interests of ‘Taiwanese compatriots,’ and harming the interests of all Chinese people,” the Chinese minister said. “People on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should oppose [the ships’ passage].”

China’s growing number of military drills near Taiwan proper have already destabilized the region and have been questioned by the international community, while Taiwan is committed to protecting regional peace and stability, the council said.

Taiwan would continue to cooperate with the US and other like-minded nations, it said.

The Ministry of National Defense on Saturday evening said the USS Mustin and USS Benfold had passed through the Strait earlier in the day, moving northeast, which was confirmed yesterday by US’ Pacific Fleet spokesman Captain Charlie Brown.

The two ships are Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers.

Lin Wen-cheng (林文程), a professor of China and Asia-Pacific region studies at National Sun Yat-sen University, said the US move represented a clear show of support from the US in response to China’s unilateral pressure on Taiwan over the past year.

The US clearly disagrees with China’s negative treatment of Taiwan, and the Taiwan Strait is an international passageway that the US is free to use, Lin said.

“US warships will pass through [the Strait] if they want to,” he said.

However, Arthur Ding (丁樹範), a professor at National Chengchi University College of International Affairs, said the US’ actions in the Strait are tied to those in the South China Sea, and some in the US government feel the US has already lost the South China Sea.

The ships’ passage might unnerve the Chinese government and lead it to increase pressure on Taiwan, such as ramping up its own military vessel and aircraft passages near Taiwan proper, he said.

Despite the US’ ability to militarily support Taiwan, it is unable to do much for the nation’s economy, and China would likely increase incentives aimed at Taiwanese business leaders and young people, he said.

However, whether the ships’ passage has a negative effect on cross-strait relations depends on whether China changes its stance toward Taiwan, he said.

If China acts with vengeance it would hurt Taiwan, but if it softens its approach it would benefit the nation, he said.

Yen Chen-shen (嚴震生), a research fellow at Chengchi’s Institute of International Relations, said the US decision to allow Taiwan to report the passage of the ships was meant to show China that the US-Taiwan relationship remains in good standing.

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