As the incursions by China into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone intensify, the international community’s anxiety has risen over the question of whether the US military would become directly involved in the case of an attack on Taiwan.
Washington’s long-held policy of “strategic ambiguity” does little to ease the trepidation.
The rationale universally espoused on “strategic ambiguity” is that an announced commitment from Washington to directly defend Taiwan would encourage Taiwanese independence and consequently bring forth a Chinese military attack and a possible nuclear confrontation between two superpowers.
However, this line of argument could soon lose steam if the subject is viewed from a different angle.
Let us suppose a different question: “What are the odds that the US military would not become directly involved in the case of China attacking Taiwan?”
The answer is a definitive “zero” because no US administration could survive the risk of “losing Taiwan without a fight.” In fact, this reality has already started to unfold.
Admiral Samuel Paparo, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, on June 29 said: “At Pacific Fleet and Indo-Pacific Command, we have a duty to be ready to respond to threats to US security.”
He further clarified the “duty” as including readying a fleet “capable of thwarting any effort on the part of the Chinese ... to include the unification by force of Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China.”
It is apparent that the US military views “strategic clarity” as an asset of deterrence and a means to discourage Beijing’s miscalculations.
There is no secret that Taiwanese covet Washington’s formal recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign nation.
However, the realization of that is impossible until Washington deems the decision necessary and beneficial from a US national security point of view.
That opportunity would arrive the moment Beijing launches a military assault on Taiwan that unavoidably draws in the US.
The legality that could justify Washington implementing a foreign expedition of this nature requires the formal recognition of a sovereign Taiwan lest the US military be restrained in any manner to the detriment of its troops’ well-being or performance of duty.
The reality might even dictate that the timing of recognition be advanced significantly earlier considering the need to permanently station in Taiwan a “tripwire force” of a 20,000 personnel armored division, a calculation floated by some in US Army circles.
Inadvertently, Beijing acting forcefully in “fulfilling” its “historical mission” of “bringing Taiwan into the embrace of motherland China” might hasten the realization of Taiwan’s independence as long as Taiwanese hold firm, a point that should not be lost on Beijing.
Huang Jei-hsuan is a Taiwanese American residing in the Los Angeles area.
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