Sun, Mar 31, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Unification would need consensus: ex-US Navy officer

Staff writer, with CNA, WASHINGTON

Former commander of the US Pacific Fleet Scott Swift speaks at a seminar at the Hudson Institute in Washington on Friday.

Photo: CNA

Unification of Taiwan and China should only proceed if it is supported by both sides, Scott Swift, a former commander of the US Pacific Fleet, said on Friday, adding that force and coercion should not be used.

“We support the one [China] policy in the context that reunification should proceed in a way that is supported by both the Taiwanese side and the Chinese side, and that force and coercion should not be used,” Swift told a seminar at the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

Asked whether the US would come to Taiwan’s aid if China invaded, Swift did not directly address the question, but said that there were increasing numbers of US generals and flag officers visiting Taiwan.

“I think that’s helpful,” he said.

While emphasizing the importance of military exchanges between Taiwan and the US, Swift said he did not think China should feel threatened.

“The more dialogues and discourses we have, the greater opportunities [for] increasing stability throughout the region, just not only in the relationship between China and Taiwan,” he said.

Transits of US vessels through the Taiwan Strait are in compliance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), he said.

“Those transits are normal and routine in the context when that makes sense, for the [US] navy perspective,” he said.

Swift said that he would not characterize such transits as freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs), in which naval or air assets reinforce internationally recognized rights and freedoms by challenging excessive maritime claims.

For transits to be characterized as FONOPs, there has to be a specific constraint applied by a specific country that exceeds the US’ interpretation of the UNCLOS, he said.

“I am not aware of any, either by Taiwan or China, that exist, or that the US believes exist and in turn challenges with its transits,” he said after the seminar in an e-mail reply to a follow-up question by the Central News Agency.

Also at the seminar, Christine Wormuth, who was US under-secretary of defense for policy during the administration of former US president Barack Obama, said that the most important thing that Taiwan and the US can do is develop the capabilities the two sides need to make an invasion of Taiwan so unappetizing that it never happens.

“The United States needs to be investing in some capabilities it already has and in many new capabilities that it needs to get; Taiwan needs to be working on that as well,” Wormuth said.

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