Campbell: I believe there has been a substantial increase in dialogue, confidence and trust between Beijing and Taipei. We support that effort, but at the same time we’ve seen substantial improvement between the US and Taiwan. So I don’t see it as co-management. I see it as a series of complex interactions going in several different directions that in its fundamental and essential essence has improved communication and peace and stability.
I believe trust has increased and China has handled its Taiwan policy very effectively.
And I think Taiwan has been careful with respect to how it’s dealt with Beijing. So the irony is although no side can handle it for a variety of domestic and complex purposes and reasons, the cross-strait relations, the three-way relations have proceeded well.
LT: When you were at the Pentagon, you started the study of Taiwan’s naval defense needs. So what happened to the submarines?
Campbell: As you can imagine there are a few things that we try not to discuss publicly and that’s one of them, so I believe that the US has a clear and essential responsibility to main peace and stability and part of that is to provide the military hardware to Taiwan to independently secure its security needs in conjunction with the US. Ultimately, the details of particular decisions are better left to private conversations.
LT: In terms of military balance, it is impossible for Taiwan to catch up with China, so what is the best strategy for Taiwan?
Campbell: Ultimately, no one wants conflicts. It would be detrimental to Asia, to China, to Taiwan.
Taiwan has maintained effective deterrence and we will continue to … I mean no one would seek to enter into conflicts without thinking carefully about the very real implications. And implications in Asia are disastrous. So people need to understand that quite clearly. It’s not just military capability to deter China. It’s the whole package that comes with it.
LT: In the past several years we have seen many incidents regarding territorial disputes including the Senkaku Islands [Diaoyutai Islands, 釣魚台] and the South China Sea, as one of the claimants, what role does the US expect Taiwan to play?
Campbell: On some of the territorial issues, we have had a dialogue with Taiwan and those were important and we will continue. And I think Taiwan has a right to be able to discuss these issues with other countries. It has a dialogue with Japan and interactions with China and other countries. I think these are perfectly appropriate.
Ultimately, we’ve given our own counsel to Taipei about handling these matters coolly and with great care. My own view is that all the issues in Asia associated with territorial matters are incredibly complicated and they require cooler heads to prevail.
We have called on all sides to take great care about how they manage these issues. Particularly in an environment where Europe’s growth is slowing and the US is still recovering. And we can’t afford to have a crisis in Asia over territorial matters. We’ve built this remarkable progress in Asia over decades with these issues still there. We need to put all of them in a proper context, recognize their larger interests in the maintenance of peace, prosperity and stability.