Washington should play the “Taiwan card” against China, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.
“America has a diplomatic ladder of escalation that would compel Beijing’s attention,” said Bolton wrote in the article, published on Sunday on the paper’s Web site.
Bolton, now a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said that for a new US president willing to act boldly, there are opportunities to halt and then reverse China’s “seemingly inexorable march toward hegemony in East Asia.”
He says that the US’ next president should insist that China reverse its territorial acquisitiveness, including abandoning its South China Sea bases and undoing the ecological damage its construction has caused.
“China is free to continue asserting its territorial claims diplomatically, but until they are peacefully resolved with its neighbors, they and the US are likewise free to ignore such claims in their entirety,” Bolton said.
If Beijing refuses to back down in the South China Sea, the next US president could receive Taiwanese diplomats officially at the US Department of State and upgrade the status of US representation in Taipei from a private “institute” to an official diplomatic mission, he said.
Bolton said that from there, the US could invite Taiwan’s president to travel officially to the US and allow the most senior US officials to visit Taiwan to transact government business.
Ultimately, the US could restore full diplomatic recognition, he said.
“Beijing’s leaders would be appalled by this approach,” said Bolton, who has a reputation for being controversial.
He said that China must understand that by creating so-called provinces in the South China Sea, it risks causing itself to lose control — perhaps forever — of Taiwan.
“Even were China to act more responsibly in nearby waters, of course, Taiwan’s fate would still be for its people to decide,” he said.
He says that president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has been cautious, but that she has not rejected “the bedrock DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] platform of independence from China.”
Bolton says that most of the Republican hopefuls for the US presidential election this year are determined “to replace the vacuum that exists where the US’ China policy should be.”
This may involve modifying or even jettisoning the “one China” policy, along with even more far-reaching initiatives to counter Beijing’s “rapidly accelerating political and military aggressiveness,” he said.
Bolton said that China might act against Taiwan before the next US president takes office this time next year.
“Too many foreigners continue echoing Beijing’s view that Taiwan is a problem only resolvable by uniting the island and the mainland as one China. Taiwan’s freedom isn’t a problem. It is an inspiration. Let Beijing contemplate that fact on the ground,” Bolton said.
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