Taiwan is a model for Asia and more specifically for China, a former US secretary of defense said during a keynote speech in Taipei yesterday, calling on Washington to sign a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Taiwan.
In Taiwan to attend the Republic of China centenary celebrations, former US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld was invited by the Prospect Foundation, a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-affiliated think tank, to share his views on future challenges in Asia.
The sprightly 79-year-old, who stepped down as former US president George W. Bush’s defense chief in 2006, said the US supported a peaceful resolution to differences across the Taiwan Strait and that progress in that direction in recent years was welcome.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
“A stable and secure relationship between Taiwan and the mainland [China] is good for both parties, for the region and for the US,” said the career government official, who first visited Taiwan in 1969.
Despite those developments, Rumsfeld said, progress was likely to continue only if both parties recognized that armed conflict was an unacceptable option, which meant Taiwan should maintain its defense and expand ties with regional allies.
“It also means that the US should continue its policy of support to Taiwan for the Taiwanese people to have the confidence to negotiate and improve” relations with China, he said, adding that in the international system, weakness was often perceived as an opportunity on the part of the stronger party to act rashly.
Rumsfeld said the decision by US President Barack Obama’s administration last month to upgrade Taiwan’s F-16A/B aircraft was a manifestation of US responsibility under the Taiwan Relations Act and former president Ronald Reagan’s “Six Assurances.”
He also said that in his view, efforts by Taiwan to procure more advanced F-16C/Ds were still alive and that the US should continue to encourage Taipei to identify its military requirements and make those known to Washington.
Only by ensuring that Taiwan is strong enough would it be possible for Taiwan’s 23 million people to decide their future, he said.
Pointing to the “dynamism” and “resilience” that prevails in Asia amid turbulence in the global economic system, Rumsfeld said the US, which conducts trade of about US$2 trillion in goods and services with Asia annually, should push for a region-wide FTA that includes Taiwan, Japan, Australia and India, among others.
As Washington puts its fiscal house in order, he said, the US “should not — and will not — be merely a spectator in the Pacific region. The promise and potential of Asia are such that future American administrations will unquestionably make the Pacific a strong focus of our foreign policy.”
Turning to China, Rumsfeld said that while some people tended to project the emergence of a “40-feet-tall giant” with whom a clash was inevitable at some point, conflict was not inevitable and was “very unlikely,” adding that China’s rise also faced a number of serious challenges, such as a rapidly aging society, an economy that remained in the thralls of the central government and lack of political freedom.
He also cautioned the Obama administration against starting a trade war with China.
“America needs to resist the current bipartisan proposal that would erect trade barriers and tariffs against China and risk sparking a worldwide trade war — the last thing the global economy needs ever, let alone now.”
While progress has been made in turning China into a responsible stakeholder, Beijing continued on occasion to act in a manner that was detrimental to rapprochement, Rumsfeld said, mentioning the overt collision by Chinese warplanes with a US EP-3 surveillance plane in 2001 and its continued support for Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
He also pointed to the expansion of China’s navy, its missile buildup threatening Taiwan and the use of cyberattacks against the US government.
Asked if he believed the US should worry about Taiwan becoming “over-reliant” on China or be absorbed by it, Rumsfeld said such fears would be overblown.
“People in authoritarian systems ought to fear open societies more than the other way around,” he said. “Closer ties will be a good thing for Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China — and not in the way that it [the Chinese leadership] thinks.”
Taiwan might be China’s next target after it has “walled off” Hong Kong from the rest of the world with its new national security legislation, Academia Sinica Institute of Sociology fellow Wu Jieh-min (吳介民) said on Thursday. At a seminar organized by the Economic Democracy Union, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, the Hong Kong Outlanders and the Judicial Reform Foundation, Wu said that the legislation is simultaneously a fig leaf concealing Beijing’s autocratic rule in Hong Kong and a figurative “Berlin Wall,” denying democratic countries access to Hong Kong. Wu said it is evident that Taiwan would be China’s next target. The
SAFETY CONCERNS: A construction company working nearby admitted to negligence in the incident, and is to pay a fine and other expenses related to damages Residents of homes adjacent to an alleyway in New Taipei City’s Yonghe District (永和) on Saturday were forced to evacuate their homes after the road collapsed, the New Taipei City government said yesterday. An 80m by 4m area in an alleyway on Wenhua Road (文化路) collapsed at 10:39am near an apartment building construction site where work was being done on the project’s foundation. The incident also ruptured an underground gas pipe and tilted several buildings in the area. Residents would not be able to return to their homes until tomorrow or Wednesday, when repairs are expected to be finished, the city government said. Workers
CHALLENGER DEEP: Lin Ying-Tsong was invited by Caladan Oceanic founder Victor Vescovo to join him on a 10-hour long trip in the company’s submersible Taiwanese-American Lin Ying-Tsong (林穎聰) last month became the first person from Asia and the 12th in human history to dive into the deepest part on Earth, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. Lin, 45, an expert in deep sea acoustics with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts, joined US adventurer and Caladan Oceanic founder Victor Vescovo, 54, on June 22 in a descent to the central pool of the Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the trench, which lies at a depth of more than 10,900m. The pair made the descent in a submersible named Limiting Factor, a US$37
ARMS RACE: Two DPP lawmakers said that China’s development model differed from Taiwan’s, as it aims to become a global hegemon, while Taiwan seeks to protect itself Taiwanese national defense experts are split on how Taiwan should respond to the ever-growing budget of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), with some advocating for Taiwan to increase defense spending, while others say that little can be done. The Legislative Yuan approved NT$358 billion (US$12.1 billion) for national defense spending across fiscal 2020, a 3.47 percent increase compared with last year, while China’s military budget this year is NT$5.4 trillion, more than 15 times that of Taiwan. Regardless of whether the government adopts a zero-based budgeting method for national defense spending — in which all expenses are justified and approved each