Former US deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz is calling on Washington to improve trade with and to sell more arms to Taiwan.
He says the nation faces an “ominous and growing military threat from China” and that its requests for newer fighter aircraft and diesel submarines are “entirely reasonable.”
In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Wolfowitz says the arms requests would already have been processed “if not for the US giving in to Chinese objections.”
He says it weakens Taiwan while emboldening China and leaving Taiwan more dependent on the US for security.
“The re-emergence of cross-strait tensions would threaten stability in East Asia in a more fundamental way than even the current disputes over islands and territorial waters,” Wolfowitz says.
“Recent events in Hong Kong should be a reminder of Beijing’s capacity for miscalculation and of how free people may react when their freedom is threatened,” he says.
Currently chairman of the US-Taiwan Business Council, Wolfowitz concludes: “The US can help avoid this outcome by being more active in supporting Taiwan.”
Under the headline “US Taiwan Policy Threatens a Face-off With China,” Wolfowitz says Taiwan’s future and US interests are imperiled by a lack of US support.
“If the US doesn’t change course, the next 18 months could witness a significant increase in US-China tensions over Taiwan,” he says.
Wolfowitz says the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is in a “precarious position,” given the deep unpopularity of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government and that the Democratic Progressive Party is well-positioned to win many major victories in the upcoming municipal elections — propelling the party into the lead for the presidential race.
He says that China hopes to embrace Taiwan more tightly through economic ties, while also preparing military options if it decides to take action to accomplish its ultimate goal of “unification.”
Meanwhile, Ma is normalizing cross-strait relations through economic engagement with China, while attempting to balance that engagement with closer ties to the US, Wolfowitz says.
“Sadly, while the US has benefited from reduced tensions, it has not provided the balance [that] Taiwan so badly needs,” he says.
The US should do more to encourage Taiwan to maintain its moderate course, whatever the outcome of upcoming elections.
However, the US has been unwilling to take ambitious steps, such as signing new trade agreements and authorizing arms sales, he says.
“This unwillingness to act appears to be based on a false choice between support for Taiwan and good working relations with China,” he says.
“This sends the wrong signal to Beijing about American resolve and it could encourage precisely the behavior from Beijing that would provoke the very reaction from Taiwan that Washington hopes to avoid,” Wolfowitz writes.
He says that the US has frozen its Taiwan trade over Taiwan’s refusal to change its laws to allow the import of pork containing the steroid ractopamine, which is blocking the launch of bilateral investment agreement (BIA) negotiations.
“The BIA is a bridge to Taiwan’s candidacy as a second-round member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] — a central component of America’s Asia policy,” Wolfowitz says.
“Taiwan membership in the TPP is a core US interest and it is time to de-link pork from the BIA launch,” he says.
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