Tensions over Taiwan have continued to flare since the mid-1990s, a report by the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) said, adding that the situation has left “many observers fearing the possibility of war looming between the United States and China — two nuclear powers.”
In a 44-page review of US-China military contacts, Asian security affairs specialist Shirley Kan said that Beijing’s rising assertiveness had been accompanied by “reduced appreciation” for military-to-military exchanges.
The review, released on Wednesday, follows a separate CRS report on policy issues in US-Taiwan relations published a few days ago.
While considering contacts with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the US, after the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis, has increased arms sales to and ties with Taiwan’s military, the new report said.
It said that policy considerations for members of Congress include offering arms sales and cooperation to help Taiwan’s self defense; securing leverage over Beijing or Taipei; deterring aggression or coercion and supporting cross-strait dialogue and confidence-building measures.
“There are complications in consideration of the question of Taiwan in the US-PRC [People’s Republic of China] military relationship,” it said.
“Not discussing Taiwan leaves the primary dispute subject to misperception or miscalculation,” the review said.
“However, linking the Taiwan question can raise tensions and frustrations over a disagreement that military exchanges cannot solve,” it said.
The review said that the PLA had suspended military exchanges in retaliation for steps in US policy toward Taiwan, especially continued arms sales. However, cutting off exchanges played a counterproductive role by raising US-PRC tension.
The review added that if the PLA believed US arms sales to Taiwan actually countered China’s interests, the PLA or the broader PRC authorities have not retaliated against Taiwan for requesting or buying defense items.
“PRC threats or steps have been directed against the United States, but not Taiwan,” the review said.