Taiwan could become a campaign issue in this year’s US presidential elections.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is set to vote on a resolution this week at its annual winter meeting supporting Taiwanese democracy and “the timely sale of defensive arms.”
Introduced by Oklahoma committee member Carolyn McLarty with 22 co-sponsors, the resolution is expected to pass without difficulty.
It is based on wording from the Republican Party’s 2008 platform, which stated that the US “will help Taiwan defend itself.” A copy of the resolution will be sent to all Republican presidential candidates for guidance in future foreign policy debates.
“Taiwan is potentially the biggest foreign policy challenge that a new president will face, so we want our candidates to know our position and help them formulate their own,” Indiana RNC member James Bopp told the Washington Times.
“China may try to manipulate our foreign policy and become aggressive toward the rest of the world to distract attention from its own developing economic crisis,” he said.
The Washington Times commented: “Republicans have long been strong champions of democratic Taiwan, but the issue has barely emerged in the more than a dozen debates and hundreds of campaign events the presidential candidates have held.”
The newspaper added that backers of the resolution were “mystified” by their candidates’ silence on Taiwan, particularly as US President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has shown an “apparent indifference” to Taiwan’s security and the threat posed by Beijing.
“We would like this to be an issue for the candidates in debates. So far, it hasn’t been,” said Demetra DeMonte, another resolution co-sponsor.
The move comes as Daniel Twining, a senior fellow for Asia at the German Marshall Fund, has written an article for Foreign Policy magazine about the “gathering debate” in Washington over whether Taiwan is a spoiler rather than a partner in Obama’s new strategy to “pivot” towards Asia.
“Arguments to let Taiwan go, get strategy backwards. Cutting off an old US ally at a time of rising tensions with an assertive China, might do less to appease Beijing than to encourage its hopes to bully the US into a further retreat from its commitments in East Asia,” Twining wrote.
“Most importantly, it would resurrect the ghosts of Munich and Yalta, where great powers decided the fate of lesser nations without reference to their interests — or the human consequences of offering them up to satisfy the appetites of predatory great powers,” he wrote.