Taiwan should seek to collaborate with US forces in the Pacific on medical assistance and humanitarian aid, with the eventual aim of strengthening military cooperation, an international affairs researcher said on Friday.
The US Senate on Thursday passed its version of the US National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for next year, which includes stipulations regarding its military commitment toward Taiwan.
Some of those stipulations include improving cooperation on military medical affairs and humanitarian assistance, as well as potentially inviting Taiwan to participate in the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), the world’s largest maritime warfare exercise, if appropriate.
In the short term, Taiwan is unlikely to participate in RIMPAC, but the two countries could first cooperate on medical assistance and humanitarian aid in the South China Sea, National Chung Cheng University Graduate Institute of Strategy and International Affairs director Soong Hseik-wen (宋學文) said.
Such cooperation would also strengthen Taiwan’s defense of Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) and the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島), he said.
Taiwan would remain open to military cooperation, but the issue would largely be decided by the US, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said.
However, there would be many steps before joint military exercises could take place, Lo said, adding that he hoped the US would first put the Taiwan Travel Act to use, and increase the frequency and extent of military exchanges.
Chen Kuo-ming (陳國銘), senior editor of the Taiwan-based magazine Defence International, said in an article that while it would be too late for Taiwan to participate in RIMPAC this year, it could ask that military officials be given permission to observe the exercises from the deck of a US warship.
Current military exchanges between the two countries include the US training of military instructors from the Republic of China Army Airborne Special Forces, humanitarian aid exchanges and the training of Taiwanese F-16 pilots at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, Chen said, adding that US military officials also regularly observe the annual Han Kuang exercises in Taiwan.
There is a possibility that China would engage the US military to distract from domestic issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic, unrest in Hong Kong and the economic impact of the ongoing US-China trade conflict, Soong said.
China might take advantage of the typhoon season next month and in September as a pretense for landing on Itu Aba or the Pratas Islands, which would lead to an armed conflict, he said, adding that such a scenario could be avoided if Taiwan and the US were working together near the islands on medical or humanitarian work.
Taiwan should seek to build on mutual values and interests in its cooperation with the US, such as sending naval or coast guard ships to protect merchant vessels, Institute of National Defense and Security Research senior analyst Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲) said.
Taiwan should bolster its reserve forces to show its resolve in defending itself, he added.
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