The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday called for a wide-ranging upgrade of relations with the US and urged US President Barack Obama to reiterate Washington’s position under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) when he visits Asia next month.
It would be imperative for the US to reaffirm its commitment to Asia-Pacific allies, in particular Taiwan, DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said at a forum in Taipei on Taiwan’s role in the US’ rebalancing strategy in Asia against the backdrop of the 35th anniversary of the enactment of the TRA and the ninth anniversary of the introduction of China’s “Anti-Secession” Law.
The TRA was enacted on April 10, 1979, while the “Anti-Secession” Law — which formalized Beijing’s use of non-peaceful means against Taiwanese independence if necessary — was announced on March 14, 2005.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
While President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has said relations between Taipei and Washington since he took office in 2008 are “the best” they have been in the past six decades, US academics are worried about the “abandonment” or “Finlandization” of Taiwan, Academia Sinica research fellow Lin Cheng-yi (林正義) said.
“Finlandization” is the influence that one powerful country may have on the policies of a smaller, neighboring country.
Washington’s attention to Taiwan seemed to have taken a nosedive since then-US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton’s description in 2011 of Taiwan as the US’ strategic partner, Lin said.
It reached a low point with John Mearsheimer’s recent article in National Interest magazine, titled “Say goodbye to Taiwan,” Lin said.
Taiwan’s lowered hostility against Beijing, its decreasing defense budget, failed all-volunteer military policy, along with the shift in the US’ focus to other parts of the world, appeared to paint a bleak picture for Taiwan-US relations, Lin said.
That was why the DPP has recommended the government take the initiative to foster more solid relations with the US, and announced a five-point agenda, DPP Department of International Affairs director Liu Shih-chung (劉世忠) said.
The five points are: Preserving Taiwan’s de facto independence and its rights of self-determination; strengthening Taiwan’s military capability and transforming it from self-defense to effective deterrent; strengthening bilateral trade relations, which could begin with joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); expanding Taiwan’s role in the US’ pivot toward Asia, and upgrading bilateral political relations, such as two-way visits of high-ranking officials from both sides.
John Tkacik, senior fellow at the Virginia-based International Assessment and Strategy Center, said Taiwan has receded in US concerns because of the easing of cross-strait tensions and Washington’s focus on countries such as Syria, Libya and Ukraine.
However, Taiwan could improve its status by playing an active role in Washington’s air-sea battle doctrine, a key component in its military strategy in the Asia-Pacific, by improving its military capability, especially its land force, Tkacik said.
“Air-sea battle simply is the reliance on technology and power of US air and naval forces to prevail in any conflict together with land forces of our allies, such as Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan,” he said.
The resolution of the Taiwanese is important as well, given that the question Taiwan has to eventually answer is whether it wants to be part of China or be an active player in the world community, he said.
What happened recently in Crimea and Ukraine would resonate with Taiwan and with Washington as well in terms of possible future cross-strait scenarios, Tkacik said.
China could perhaps learn from Russia and decide that the way for peaceful unification is to simply take over Taiwan and give its people a meaningless referendum with just two similar options, he said.
“I think that China is looking at what’s going on in Crimea and Ukraine, not the way that Taiwan thinks it is, but rather from how China can do the same thing,” Tkacik said.
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