The US government has embarked on a policy of “selective strategic clarity” toward Taiwan after former US secretary of defense Robert Gates recommended that Washington end strategic ambiguity, national security researcher Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲) said yesterday.
Gates said in a live interview with the Washington Post on Sunday that the US should “think seriously” about abandoning “our long-time strategy” of maintaining ambiguity regarding its military stance toward the Taiwan Strait.
“[Washington ought to] basically tell the Chinese that if, unprovoked, they take actions against Taiwan, the United States will be there to support Taiwan, and at the same time tell the Taiwanese if they take actions unilaterally, to change the status quo, to go for independence or something like that, they will be on their own,” he said.
Su, a senior analyst at the government-funded Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said that Gates’ remarks reflect conventional strategic thought that had for decades guided US policy toward Taiwan and China, but Washington’s relationship with China was transformed during former US president Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump oversaw a pivot of US strategy toward “selective clarity,” which includes warning China against taking military action, removing restrictions on official Taiwan-US interactions and supporting Taipei’s efforts to gain reasonable international representation, he said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has made no move to reimpose limits on Taiwan-US interactions, but has reiterated that the administration would discharge its commitments under the US’ Taiwan Assurance Act, Su said.
These actions have shown that selective strategic clarity can be more beneficial than total clarity, which could trigger radical changes to the trilateral relationship, he said.
Although Biden is less abrasive, he is just as tough on China in substance as his predecessor, Su added.
Biden’s China policy is underlined by the transit of US warships in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, the test-firing of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile in the western Pacific and the attitude of his core national security officials, Su said.
Over the past few months, US policymakers, legislators, former officials and academics have made references to strategic clarity on multiple occasions, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said.
“The international community is increasingly worried about China’s blatant militarism, and these concerns are amplified by Taiwan’s essential position in the global supply chain and its democratic values,” he said.
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