Fri, Feb 20, 2009 - Page 4 News List

New study predicts Strait instability

NEAR FUTUREA visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution says that China has not reciprocated the goodwill shown by President Ma Ying-jeou, instead putting more missiles in place

By William Lowther  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

A commentary published by the Washington-based Brookings Institution warns US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that there is the potential for instability in the Taiwan Strait “in the near future.”

Significantly, the article written by Liu Shih-chung (劉世忠), visiting fellow at the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, comes on the eve of Clinton’s visit to Beijing.

She arrives in the Chinese capital today for talks with senior political leaders and will return to Washington on Sunday.

“From Taiwan’s perspective, given the recent temporary stabilization of cross-strait relations since the Ma Ying-jeou [馬英九] government took power, the issue of Taiwan will probably not become a contentious topic between Washington and Beijing, as it was in the past,” Liu said.

A counselor to former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) from 2000 to 2006 and vice chairman of the Research and Planning Committee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to last year, he said that Clinton’s meetings would demonstrate whether the administration of US President Barack Obama would introduce a new approach to China.

“The fact that the current cross-strait detente initiated by Taiwan’s government has not received a sufficient good-will response from Beijing — especially when it comes to Taiwan’s international space and China’s reduction of military threats to the island — suggest potential instability in the near future,” Liu said.

“The opposition party in Taiwan requests more caution and prudence from President Ma in dealing with China. The US defense community also expressed worry over a potential asymmetric game between Taipei and Beijing in favor of the latter. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said recently that Washington will continue to supply necessary and defensive-oriented arms sales to Taiwan, in line with the Taiwan Relations Act, to balance Beijing’s continuing military build-up,” he said.

Liu said there was still uncertainty on the extent to which a healthy and peaceful cross-strait relationship could be achieved in the absence of a strong US commitment to and support for Taiwan’s democracy and security.

“Therefore, in addition to constructing a multi-dimensional and cooperative partnership with Beijing and encouraging cross-strait dialogue, Secretary Clinton and the Obama administration in Washington should also make efforts to prevent cross-strait relations from becoming an asymmetric game that might jeopardize the Taiwanese people’s free and democratic choice for any future options,” he said.

The paper comes on top of a letter written to Clinton by Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a ranking member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, asking her to re-emphasize the Obama administration’s commitment to “the importance of assuring that the aspirations of the people of Taiwan are fully considered.”

“The 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre is approaching in June. The deplorable state of human rights and religious freedom in China must, therefore, remain a priority during any discussions in Beijing,” Ros-Lehtinen said.

Voice of America has reported that talks would be held later this month between the US and the Chinese military — the first since China ended all military exchanges and discussions to protest US arms sales to Taiwan last October.

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