Obama urged to stand by Taiwan

REMINDER::Erosion of US attention to Taiwan could shatter US alliances in Asia with grave regional security consequences, the Washington Post said in an editorial

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Sat, Jan 23, 2016 - Page 3

One of the US’ most influential newspapers has urged US President Barack Obama to make clear that Washington would “respond” to any attempt by China to intimidate the incoming Taiwanese government.

The Washington Post said in a lead editorial that the US should advise Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) that by crushing domestic dissent and violating legal guarantees given to Hong Kong, he was ensuring that pro-independence forces in democratic Taiwan would steadily grow.

It said that the gulf between Xi’s “Stalinist-style humiliation of critics” and Taiwan’s burgeoning liberalism did a lot to explain the victory of president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文).

The newspaper said that China’s first official statement following the Taiwanese election linked future cooperation to Tsai’s acceptance of the principle that Taiwan was part of one China — “something she is unlikely to offer.”

“Like Ms. Tsai, the Obama administration is saying that it wants the continuation of cross-Strait peace and stability. If so, it should be urging Beijing to take up the president-elect’s offer to find a new formula for coexistence,” the article said.

“Washington should make it clear that it will respond to any attempt by China to intimidate the incoming [Taiwanese] government,” the Washington Post said

There had been almost no reaction to the outcome of Taiwan’s election from US presidential candidates, the newspaper said.

“Campaign rhetoric reflects popular priorities and the general failure to note Taiwan’s election isn’t an isolated event,” it said. “It reflects a too-common practice of misunderstanding Taiwan’s importance as a US partner, Asian bellwether and target of Chinese aggression.”

Erosion of US attention to Taiwan could shatter US alliances in Asia with grave regional security consequences, such as Japan and South Korea going nuclear, the newspaper said.

During a roundtable meeting at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday, senior fellow Dean Cheng (成斌) said that China had become much more sophisticated in understanding how democracy worked in Taiwan.

He said the election results posed a serious challenge to Beijing, because they were in such “sharp contrast with the situation on the mainland.”

Tsai has to “play it very smart” and that she must not be perceived as changing the “status quo,” the Heritage Foundation director of Asian Studies Walter Lohman said.

He said that if China changed the “status quo,” everyone would see Beijing “as the problem.”

American Institute in Taiwan former managing director Barbara Schrage said US policy toward Taiwan was “about right.”

There would now be a difference in what the US said privately, and possibly publicly, in terms of urging both Taiwan and China to keep lines of communication open and to find ways to cooperate, she said.

Schrage said she believed that during private meetings with Democratic Progressive Party Secretary-General Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) this week, US officials would have expressed their strong respect for Taiwan’s democracy and democratic system.

She said they would have also expressed US interest in continuing the very close and strong unofficial relationship with Taiwan and the need to continue to find ways to promote peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.