Continuing to sell arms to Taiwan is “a recipe for problems” for Washington, according to Michael Swaine, an Asia specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
In a filmed interview released by Carnegie, Swaine said: “It is unclear to me whether China will continue to accept continued significant US arms sales to Taiwan in response to China’s military buildup without seeking to place greater coercive pressure on the US and possibly Taiwan.”
“This could indeed produce crises between the US and China over time,” he said.
The statement comes as Swaine and others are upsetting some of Taiwan’s supporters in the US with a planned high-profile roundtable discussion titled, “Should the United States Abandon Taiwan?”
Organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, the discussion will take place on Oct. 18.
Some of Taiwan’s supporters say no serious consideration is being given to the idea of abandoning Taiwan and that, by providing a platform, the CSIS might be unintentionally promoting it.
“It is not at all a feasible policy option and it is promoted and supported by a very small circle of people, so why discuss it so much?” one academic said. “What are they trying to gain? My cynical side says it’s just another way for these folks to present a provocatively titled panel and get out in front of an audience to promote their latest writings. The beast feeding itself.”
Bonnie Glaser, senior fellow of China Studies at the CSIS, and Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, professor of history at Georgetown University, will make an opening presentation at the roundtable based on their recent article printed by the Washington Quarterly analyzing the question “Should the United States Abandon Taiwan?”
In that article, Glaser and Tucker say that prominent people in the US were insisting in influential publications that it was time for the US to rethink its Taiwan policy and walk away from Taiwan.
However, after examining the “variables,” Glaser and Tucker concluded that the US should neither abandon nor reduce its commitments to Taiwan, but rather it should “strengthen them.”
“Washington has not decided to jettison Taiwan, and it should not. However frightening or seductive China is, appeasing it by sacrificing Taiwan would not be good policy,” they wrote.
Nevertheless, the idea will be discussed at the CSIS roundtable by Charles Glaser, professor of political science at George Washington University and no relation to Bonnie Glaser, and Swaine.
Charles Glaser caused waves earlier this year with an article in Foreign Affairs magazine in which he said the US could avoid conflict with China by backing away from its commitments to Taiwan.
The sensitive nature of the subject was almost immediately made clear when former American Institute in Taiwan chairman Nat Bellocchi attacked Charles Glaser in the Taipei Times, saying “never in my long diplomatic life have I run into a more shortsighted, uninformed and fallacious set of arguments.”
“Foreign Affairs does itself and its readers a disservice by publishing such a flawed article,” Bellocchi added.
Last month, Swaine published an article in The National Interest saying China’s strategic mindset was “quintessentially defensive, largely reactive and focused first and foremost on deterring Taiwan’s independence and defending the Chinese mainland,” not on establishing itself as Asia’s next hegemon.
In his latest statements, Swaine said: “I’m not as certain as many people seem to be that the situation regarding Taiwan will remain as generally benign and stable as it appears to be today.”
He called on the US and China to engage in dialogue to “understand, assess or establish some sort of quid pro quo involving military deployments and arms sales in consultation with the Taiwan government on the US side.”
“But it would also require very different thinking on the part of US officials from what exists today. Because the current US position basically is, ‘It’s not broken, don’t fix it.’ We just keep selling arms to Taiwan if the Chinese keep developing, and to me, that is a recipe for problems,” he added.
June Teufel Dreyer, an expert on Taiwan at the University of Miami, told the Taipei Times: “When articles on this topic appear in Foreign Affairs — written by someone who is not an expert on Taiwan — and the Washington Quarterly, and is given a platform by CSIS, it would appear that the sponsoring groups are trying to promote an agenda to move what could be a minority view into the mainstream.”
“Foreign Affairs, for example, could have run [Charles] Glaser’s article side by side with an article entitled ‘Why the US Must Not Abandon Taiwan.’ But did not. And further, ran another article a year before advocating the Finlandization of Taiwan. This bespeaks an agenda,” she added.
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