The US should continue to inform Beijing that cross-strait relations can only be pursued in the absence of threat or use of force, according to a report released by a New York-based policy organization.
While recent remarks by president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) indicated a desire to work constructively with China, some heightened tensions can be expected ahead of her inauguration, former American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) director Stephen Young wrote in the report, titled Building a Regional Order in East Asia: Community, Competition, Conflict, that was published by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy at the end of last month.
The committee was founded in 1974 to help resolve conflicts that threaten US interests.
Young said it is possible that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) would exert greater pressure on Taiwan in the coming months on the issue of “reunification.”
Any sharp rhetoric or actions toward Taiwan by China would become a security and political issue for the US government, he said.
“Washington must continue to speak plainly to Beijing about our long-term insistence that cross-strait ties can only be pursued in the absence of the use or threat of force,” Young said.
The US should also continue to provide weapons of defense to Taiwan and respect Taiwan’s strong democratic system, and the US military should maintain its strong presence in the Asia-Pacific region, he wrote.
He said the US should caution China to adhere to peaceful means of pursuing cross-strait relations and caution Taiwan to avoid “pushing the envelope on sovereignty issues that could cross a red line with Beijing.”
Young also said that Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were not likely to eagerly seek closer ties with China “anytime soon,” and it remained to be seen whether Xi would reverse the economic engagement between China and Taiwan.
Donald Zagoria, a senior vice president of the committee, said the US should let Beijing and Taipei know that its primary interest in cross-strait relations is “the maintenance of cross-strait peace and stability.”
“We should push for the DPP and Beijing to reach an agreement that will respect the existing political framework for cross-strait relations built by Beijing and the Kuomintang [Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)] over the past eight years,” he wrote in the report.
As the DPP does not recognize the so-called “1992 consensus,” Zagoria said that tensions across the Taiwan Strait would likely increase unless the DPP and China can work out a “new, mutually agreeable formula for cross-strait relations.”
On the issue of South China Sea disputes, Zagoria said the US should “continue to press for a rules-based regime in East Asia and urge China and its neighbors to sign a code of conduct to regulate maritime activities.”
Other contributors to Building a Regional Order in East Asia include Sun Zhe (孫哲), co-director of the China Initiative at School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University, and retired US admiral Michael McDevitt, who works for the Center for Naval Analyses run by the Arlington, Virginia-based CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization.
Sun wrote that a binding code of conduct on the South China Sea must be worked out and that China has to work with other countries on the issue.
McDevitt suggested that US policymakers press the ASEAN to conclude a code of conduct that can be presented to Beijing as a common ASEAN position.
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