The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been “obviously deficient” in aligning Taiwan’s defense with diplomacy, charges a paper published on Wednesday by the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“Taiwan must rethink its practices for interagency collaboration and make some tangible action plans,” said Huang Kwei-bo (黃奎博), an associate professor of diplomacy at National Chengchi University, in the paper.
He said that in May 2011, Ma detailed three lines of defense to enhance Taiwan’s international status and security in the face of a rising China.
The first two — institutionalization of cross-strait rapprochement and the utilization of Taiwan’s geographic location, infrastructure and democracy to interact with the rest of the world — have been “implemented with some success.”
However, according to Huang, the third line of defense — “aligning Taiwan’s defense with diplomacy” — is supported by few detailed and deliberate action plans.
“While the outlines of this third line of defense are visible, it is evident that Taiwan has not brought the different strands of this idea together to substantially connect,” he said.
Huang said that maintaining an appropriate self-defense capability while preventing war in a diplomatic way “is a common-sense objective for Taiwan.”
One major problem, according to Huang, is that the Ministry of National Defense (MND) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) need better collaboration.
“What Taiwan really needs at this time is stronger initiative and persistent fostering of cross-agency interactions that can facilitate the goal of aligning defense with diplomacy,” Huang said.
“Better and consistent coordination within both MOFA and MND is required,” he said.
Except at the top leadership level, the exchange and sharing of information between the ministries “has not been institutionalized satisfactorily.”
“As neither MND nor MOFA is sufficiently organized and trained to plan, coordinate and integrate the resources and mechanisms available for the establishment of the third line of defense, at the present time Taiwan is not able to achieve this goal,” he said.
US arms sales and political support remain “crucial” for Taiwan’s national security, but are not enough by themselves.
“Taiwan must speed up its interagency collaboration now, beginning with MND and MOFA,” Huang said.
However, it will require political investment from the president.
Ma must know that his national security triad will not function as expected if any of the defense lines is ignored or mismanaged, he said.
“Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether the in-depth shaping and adjustment of the third line of defense will take place in the near future, especially as the administration is confronting a series of serious and intricate domestic and external challenges,” he said.