Taiwan could be a major strategic asset to the US, but first it must boost its defenses, a Washington conference has been told.
One area in which Taipei could be a “huge” help to Washington is in combating cyberwarfare, the American Enterprise Institute’s (AEI) Asia Studies director Dan Blumenthal said.
No one knows the Chinese language, information networks and way of thinking better than Taiwanese, and Taiwanese are the best businesspeople in China “bar none,” he said.
He said the Japanese understood Taiwanese business acumen better than most and were doing deals in Taiwan as a way to get into China. However, before the US could start thinking about how Taiwan could best add to the net security of Asia, he said, Taipei had to “focus” on its own defense.
“There are a lot of things it can do in terms of developing its own access denial areas and denial capabilities,” Blumenthal said.
Boosting its defenses was the “first responsibility” and Washington needed to be confident that the nation was fulfilling that responsibility before “we transition into a strategic asset,” he added.
Blumenthal said Taiwan was central to US thinking in Asia and that it was “not going away any time soon.”
He said that Taiwan was still the most likely “front of conflict,” because while China thinks the nation is “basically giving up and settling,” Taiwan increasingly thinks of itself as a completely separate country from China.
Blumenthal said that any attack on Taiwan from China would “certainly implicate” Japan, where there is great concern about “losing” Taiwan.
Professor of strategy at the US Naval War College Thomas Mahnken said that Taiwan had within its power, within its budget and within its capabilities the ability to impose “great costs” upon China.
He said Taipei could “raise the bar of deterrence” very high by undertaking a series of affordable defensive actions.
“The real question is whether the government of Taiwan has the desire to pursue the options that are within its grasp,” Mahnken said.
Founder of the Congressional China Caucus, Representative Randy Forbes, said that when he attended official events in China he found that Taiwan always ended up being a major topic.
“It is always about Taiwan,” he said.