The sensitive political issue of whether the US will send troops to protect Taiwan if China invades has reignited a dispute in Taiwanese society, as well as between the two major political parties.
The reason is that Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) told US National Public Radio that he hoped Washington would continue its arms sales to Taiwan, but the nation would not rely on US intervention in a cross-strait military conflict.
It is Taiwan’s responsibility to defend itself, which it does at its own risk, and it would work hard to prepare for the future, he said.
The US security commitment to Taiwan has remained unchanged since the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) of 1979, and it has even increased during President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) time in office.
For example, the US Senate and House of Representatives in 2016 passed a joint resolution listing the TRA and the “six assurances” as cornerstones of bilateral relations.
The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019 states that “the Secretary of Defense should promote Department of Defense policies concerning exchanges that enhance the security of Taiwan,” including “opportunities for practical training and military exercises” and exchanges between senior defense officials and general officers of the US and Taiwan consistent with the Taiwan Travel Act.
Even with these documents and bills, the government has never relied on or expected the US to send troops to defend Taiwan in a war with China.
This can be seen in the Taiwan Strait defense operation plan, revised by the Ministry of National Defense in 2018, which states that in a war with China, Taiwan would have to defend itself independently, and the US would not provide a single soldier.
This was corroborated by Tsai in an interview on July 23, 2018, when she made it clear that Taiwan’s national defense and self-defense capabilities are indeed its own responsibility.
The nation must be responsible for maintaining its own defense and national security, and not place all its hopes on US military assistance.
This has been particularly true since the 1979 termination of diplomatic ties with the US. From then on, Taiwan’s military has been self-reliant and shouldering the full responsibility of protecting the security and life of all Taiwanese.
The rapid expansion of China’s military in the South China Sea has caused tension in neighboring countries.
In addition, in the past month, the Chinese military has conducted practical combat exercises in the vicinity of the Taiwan Strait, frequently breaching the Strait’s median line and seriously threatening Taiwan’s national security.
In this dangerous situation, the US would — based on global strategic considerations and to maintain security in the Asia-Pacific region — continue to provide Taiwan with weapons to maintain its self-defense and a military balance in the Strait.
Since the Democratic Progressive Party came to power, Tsai has been promoting a series of programs to maintain national defense autonomy, such as the indigenous defense submarine and fighter plane programs, which demonstrates the nation’s determination to defend itself.
In short, as long as all Taiwanese have a strong determination to resist the enemy in the face of possible Chinese military aggression, all just and righteous forces in the international community, be it military, political, or diplomatic, will continue to support democratic and free Taiwan.
Yao Chung-yuan is an adjunct university professor and former deputy director of the Ministry of National Defense’s strategic planning department.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
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