A five-point “provocative” plan for dramatically changing Taiwan’s defense posture was presented on Wednesday to a Taiwan Roundtable forum at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the George Washington University (GWU).
The plan, proposed by Scott Bates, president of the Center for National Policy, was originally published as an opinion piece in the Taipei Times in November last year (“A new plan to take Asia by surprise,” Nov. 22, page 8).
It calls on Taiwan to make a “solemn pledge” to never conduct any military action on the shores of China, even if attacked by Beijing.
The plan suggests the Taiwanese army should be cut in half and recast as a self-defense force to become Asia’s premier disaster response team. Taiwanese diplomats should focus on developing solutions to sovereignty questions in the South China Sea, Taipei should launch a democracy offensive and at the same time upgrade its air defenses and modernize its navy, Bates said.
Bates said that if Taiwan adopted his ideas it would gain the moral high ground and China would be too “humiliated and embarrassed” to attack.
Joseph Bosco, a former East Asia security specialist in the office of the US Secretary of Defense, was one of the commentators at the roundtable and said it was “a little bit awkward” because he considered Bates to be a friend, but that he had to express “strong disagreements.”
He said that Bates’ “bold suggestions” would worsen Taiwan’s security situation and that some of his “sweeping statements” seemed to ignore history and current reality.
Bosco said that Bates was calling for unilateral disarmament by Taiwan and asking it not to strike back at an aggressor.
“Such an idea violates every principle of deterrence,” he said.
He said it would invite an attack and was an “astonishing notion.”
“China needs to understand that actual war is a two way street — not a free ride without unacceptable consequences,” Bosco said.
“The underlying premise of the entire proposal seems to be that Taiwan somehow lacks moral legitimacy in the eyes of the international community,” he said. “Taiwan already has the moral high ground as a democratic, peaceful and responsible society.”
“Taiwan in contrast to China has shown itself to be a responsible citizen,” he added.
Richard Fisher, senior fellow on Asian military affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, was also scheduled to comment, but the roundtable was forced to end early when the building was evacuated for a fire alarm, which turned out to be false.