The US should insist on a binding code of conduct prohibiting the use of force to settle Taiwan’s future, a new study released this week by the Hudson Institute said.
Washington should also insist that the same code of conduct prohibit the use of force to settle territorial disputes in the East and South China seas, the study said.
“The forceful ‘unification’ of Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China [PRC] would lower the credibility of the American alliance system in Asia,” the study written by Hudson Institute senior fellows John Lee and Charles Horner said.
“Moreover, if the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] is allowed physical access to Taiwanese ports and untrammeled access to Taiwan’s exclusive maritime economic zone, this would offer the PLA Navy the strategic breakout into the Western Pacific that it needs to significantly alter the strategic balance in the wider East and Southeast region,” it said.
Current US policy in the Taiwan Strait is deliberately ambiguous and casts doubt on Washington’s clarity about its own strategic interests in East Asia vis-a-vis an ambitious and increasingly assertive PRC, the study said.
Titled Keeping the Peace in the Pacific the study asserts that a US failure to adopt a clear and robust position on sovereignty disputes involving the PRC in the East and South China seas and the Taiwan Strait also enhances the effectiveness of Beijing’s approach of dividing opponents and probing US resoluteness.
“This means that China is allowed to dictate the pace and extent it asserts its claims in these various regions, even as it increasingly views these claims as indivisible,” the study said.
Instead, the US should counter with the proposition that one binding code of conduct against the use of force to settle these issues should be applicable to all of the contested regions, the study said.
“The high likelihood that the PRC would reject such a proposal is beside the point — the onus would be upon Beijing to justify its rejection of such a code and it would suffer region-wide diplomatic fallout as it goes about doing so,” the study said.
It said that despite China’s size, rapid economic growth and expanding military capabilities, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cannot afford a foreign policy disaster because it would have grave economic consequences for the country and possibly trigger an existential crisis for the party.
The US, in coordination with allies like Japan, should control the pace of diplomatic, military and economic escalation in the event of a crisis — and in doing so impose “prohibitive costs” on the CCP, the study said.