Tue, May 03, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Tsai urged to improve ties with Japan, ASEAN

By Chen Yu-hsuan and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

President-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration should improve relations with Japan, India and ASEAN to boost Taiwan’s diplomatic standing and economic growth, academics said.

Tsai’s inauguration on May 20 comes amid political campaigning in Japan for July’s House of Councilors election and in the US for the presidential election in November, slowing the response of the two allies to Taiwan-related issues for the duration of the campaigns, Taiwan Thinktank deputy executive director Lai I-chung (賴怡忠) said.

Notably, US President Barack Obama’s administration is expected to be cautious and defensive for the remainder of this year, he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to “retain his advantage” after July’s election and since he will not face another electoral challenge until 2018, he is likely to be “emboldened” in setting an international agenda, a situation that is sure to increase Japan’s significance for Taiwan, Lai said.

Calling Japan a “fulcrum” in Taiwan’s diplomatic efforts, Lai said that Abe’s relative freedom of action is likely to encourage Tokyo to play a prominent role in the region in ways that might favor Taiwanese interests.

In multilateral trade negotiations such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Japan might possibly eclipse the US in diplomatic value, he said.

Yen Chen-shen (嚴震生), a research fellow at National Chengchi University’s Institute of International Relations, said that retaining diplomatic allies that recognize Taiwan’s statehood is likely to be a serious test for Tsai’s government, considering the Gambia’s severing of diplomatic ties with Taipei.

Although the Gambia’s move and its later establishment of ties with Beijing does not appear to be the result of a new Chinese diplomatic offensive, its effect on Taiwan’s international standing is still high, Yen said.

The Gambia broke ties with Taiwan in on Nov. 15, 2013, and resumed them with Beijing on March 17.

Resources are crucial to maintaining Taiwan’s diplomatic partners and the government should continue delivering aid to international partners, and involving the US in its efforts, especially in South and Central America, where the US “is reluctant to see a powerful Chinese presence,” Yen said.

“Taiwan should tell diplomatic allies that their ties with Taiwan would improve their relationship with the US,” Lai said.

Taiwan is interposed between the US and China, and therefore should be wary of making lopsided concessions to one side that would result in a loss of leverage, and avoid the risk of becoming a sacrificial piece in the US-Chinese “co-opetition,” Yen said, calling on Tsai’s government to avoid overly intimate collaborations with the US.

As for potential partners and allies, Lai said that ASEAN members and India, which have experienced rapid economic growth, should be targeted for diplomatic ties, because relationships with them might “increase Taiwan’s presence in the region, hedge Taiwan’s economic risks and spur domestic growth.”

Taiwan should be focusing on “diplomacy of values” and “cooperation in democracy and human-rights issues” with European nations through non-governmental organizations (NGOs), adding that a strategy that focuses on NGOs might make Taiwan’s accession into the international community easier, Lai said.

“Taiwan becoming a center of NGO activity would help the nation define its role in global affairs, which is more important than formal attendance in certain international summits,” he said.

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