A cable classified as “secret” and just released by the whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks throws new light on the extensive security-related talks held regularly between the US and Taiwan.
The cable indicates that security talks are much deeper and more frequent than previously known.
It was sent in February last year by American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Bill Stanton in Taipei to the US Department of State and details no fewer than 12 “dialogues.”
In a summary at the opening of the cable, Stanton says that the US has a range of security-related dialogues with Taiwan, including one led by the State Department, 10 led by the Pentagon and one led by the AIT.
“These talks cover a range of security issues and contribute to our unofficial bilateral relationship,” Stanton said.
He recommended some “modest changes” to the overall political-military dialogue structure to make it more effective and efficient, “especially in light of increased defense exchanges at multiple levels in recent years.”
Stanton said that in the previously well-known “Monterey Talks,” there was a risk that increasing numbers of participants would “dilute their value as a venue for high-level dialogue” and called for limits in the future.
In other talks, he said that a considerable amount of time was spent on technical issues that could be addressed elsewhere, allowing the talks to focus on “particular problematic programs.”
Stanton revealed that the first session of US-Taiwan Political--Military Talks was held by the State Department in Washington from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 in 2009 and that they “offer a rare opportunity for dialogue on political-military issues where full attention is given to the political side of the equation.”
He said that the US wanted to strengthen the political and interagency aspects of the bilateral security relationship.
The most important of the -Pentagon-led talks was the US-Taiwan Strategic Dialogue, also known as the Monterey Talks.
Established in 1997, this annual meeting of interagency delegations is the highest level security dialogue between the two sides.
“In our view, this event suffers somewhat from its own success. The large number of participants at the most recent session — more than 50 — hampered the free flow of ideas,” Stanton said.
The Pentagon-led talks include the annual Defense Review Talks, which constitute the highest level dialogue between the US Department of Defense and Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense.
These talks “provide direction to security cooperation for the following year and discuss issues of mutual concern.”
They usually take place in October.
Next in importance were the Security Cooperation Talks, established in 1995. They are used to review current and future arms sales.
The General Officer Steering Group meets annually to discuss ways of enhancing Taiwan’s defensive war-fighting readiness and minimize problems between US-Taiwan forces “in the event they are deployed in the same or adjacent battle spaces.”
In addition, the army, navy and air force from each side hold separate annual “detailed and focused discussions” on cooperation and the US Army Pacific, US Pacific Fleet, Marine Forces Pacific and Pacific Air Force “maintain very active security cooperation programs with their Taiwan counterparts.”
Stanton said that the military-to-military talks were “valuable and necessary” and provide a window on Taiwan’s contingency planning.