National Security Bureau Deputy Director-General Vincent Chen (陳文凡) on Tuesday called on the US to sign a memorandum of understanding with Taiwan as part of a joint effort to combat disinformation.
Discussing China’s influence operations against Taiwan at a US conference, Chen said that Beijing has for years attempted to influence Taiwan’s major elections.
Citing National Security Council intelligence, Chen said that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in late 2017 established an interdepartmental task force to evaluate election-related action in the run-up to Taiwan’s local government elections in November last year, which resulted in heavy defeats for the Democratic Progressive Party.
Beijing is now doing the same thing before Taiwan holds presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 11, he said.
The CCP is hoping to influence the elections by “financing pro-China parties, supporting mainland spouse groups, Aboriginal talk show hosts and Web site writers,” Chen said.
Beijing is also using social media, pro-China news media and Internet celebrities in Taiwan to spread its message, he said.
In the run-up to the elections, the CCP could also poach another one or two of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies; mobilize Taiwanese businesspeople in China and overseas pro-China voters to return to Taiwan to vote; and undertake more military intimidation, Chen said.
Regardless of the outcome of the elections, China will continue to tighten the screws on Taiwan, diplomatically, economically and militarily, he said.
He suggested that Taiwan, the US and other like-minded nations form a cybersecurity alliance aimed at combating disinformation.
“The objective of this alliance is to safeguard freedom of speech and to explore regulation of Internet activities,” Chen said.
Taiwan and the US should also consider signing an agreement on combating disinformation as “Taiwan is the real-time combat zone,” he said at the conference organized by the Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based research institute.
Asked whether such a deal is possible, US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Randall Schriver said at the conference that he could not comment on possible future agreements between the two sides.
However, he did acknowledge that Taipei and Washington have shared concerns in the area and both would benefit from understanding each other’s best practices.
“We know this is an issue of concern related to the upcoming Taiwan election. We will have our own election shortly following that, so I think we need to engage on this and learn from one another’s best practices,” Schriver said.
Asked about Taiwan’s role in the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy, he said that Taiwan faces an immediate threat from China that comes in a variety of forms.
These threats include “diplomatic pressure, the use of economic coercion, military pressure through more robust exercises and training that is clearly designed to intimidate Taiwan,” Schriver said.
Taiwan’s primary role in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region is protecting itself and ensuring that its people can preserve their status and ability to decide their future, and then beyond that think of ways to contribute to those principles in the region, he said.
Schriver, who last week concluded a visit to China, Vietnam and Japan, said that Beijing raised the Taiwan issue during his meeting with senior officials, especially its concern that the US is selling more advanced weapons to Taiwan, including a package of 66 F-16Vs Washington announced in August.
“I simply reiterated that our position remains the same related to the implementation of the Taiwan Relations Act [TRA],” Schriver said.
China, with its modernizing military and increasing threats targeting Taiwan, has only itself to blame for the US continuing to honor the TRA and provide weapons systems for Taiwan’s self-defense, he said.
The TRA was signed in April 1979 by then-US president Jimmy Carter, a few months after the US switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing. It provides a legal basis for unofficial relations between the US and Taiwan, and enshrines in law the US’ commitment to helping Taiwan maintain its self-defense capabilities.
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