US mil­i­tary ties with Tai­wan will da­m­age re­la­tions

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

That the US House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives passed the Na­tional De­fense Au­tho­riza­tion Act for Fis­cal Year 2018, which has con­tro­ver­sial pro­vi­sions on Tai­wan, sug­gests the Don­ald Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is eager to leave its mark on Wash­ing­ton’s pol­icy to­ward Tai­wan.

As one among a se­ries of mea­sures taken by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, the bill passed on July 14 con­tains pro­vi­sions about “re-es­tab­lish­ing” reg­u­lar ports of call for the United States Navy at Kaoh­si­ung or any other suit­able port in Tai­wan, and per­mit­ting the US Pa­cific Com­mand to re­ceive Tai­wan ves­sels. It also gives the green light to more US “de­fense co­op­er­a­tion” with Tai­wan and “nor­mal­iz­ing” US weapons sales to the is­land.

For ob­vi­ous rea­sons, China has strongly op­posed the bill, see­ing it as a se­ri­ous in­ter­fer­ence in its in­ter­nal af­fairs and a bla­tant vi­o­la­tion of the one-China pol­icy and the three joint com­mu­niqués that guide Sino-US re­la­tions.

Un­der the three joint com­mu­niqués, the US is obliged to abide by the one-China pol­icy, rec­og­nize that Tai­wan is part of China, and the govern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China is the sole le­git­i­mate govern­ment of China.

How­ever, over the years the US has main­tained un­of­fi­cial con­tacts with the is­land and kept sell­ing arms to it un­der the Tai­wan Re­la­tions Act.

The lat­est US bill, if writ­ten into law, will set two trou­bling prece­dents for Wash­ing­ton’s re­la­tions with Tai­wan, and sub­se­quently da­m­age Sino-US re­la­tions. The port of call ar­range­ment will, in ef­fect, sig­nal the be­gin­ning of di­rect mil­i­tary con­tacts be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Tai­wan and, along with the “nor­mal­iz­ing” of US arms sales, amount to the US backpedal­ing on its of­fi­cial stance of phas­ing out arms sales to the is­land.

The US’ na­tional de­fense bill came into media spot­light one day af­ter the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion no­ti­fied the US Congress of “seven pro­posed de­fense sales for Tai­wan” worth $1.42 bil­lion. Bei­jing has strongly crit­i­cized the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s first arms sales to the is­land, be­cause it op­poses any of­fi­cial or mil­i­tary ex­change be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Tai­wan.

Con­sid­er­ing that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is still weigh­ing the pros and cons of Sino-US ties, its in­ten­si­fied Tai­wan-re­lat- ed moves show it is try­ing to play the Tai­wan card, us­ing it as lever­age against Bei­jing to gain ben­e­fits in fields such as trade in re­turn. That Trump, by na­ture, is a busi­ness­man and his credo is “Amer­ica First” lend cre­dence to this per­cep­tion.

But the US should be warned that China brooks no in­ter­fer­ence in the Tai­wan ques­tion, and any provo­ca­tion over the is­sue will erode the mu­tual political trust be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Bei­jing, even shake the foun­da­tion of Sino-US re­la­tions.

In the six months that Trump has been in the White House, China and the US have ex­changed sev­eral high-level vis­its and held a se­ries of talks.

The two coun­tries reached im­por­tant con­sen­suses when Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Trump met in Florida in April. They have im­ple­mented the 100-day eco­nomic plan, and de­cided to start a year­long ac­tion plan for eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion.

At the se­cu­rity level, the first China-US Di­plo­matic and Se­curi- ty Di­a­logue was held in Wash­ing­ton last month, which both sides said was con­struc­tive and fruit­ful. They have also made ef­forts to jointly ad­dress is­sues of com­mon con­cern, in­clud­ing the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula.

But the US arms sales to Tai­wan risk com­pro­mis­ing the con­sen­suses reached be­tween the two sides and un­der­mine their mu­tual ef­forts to deepen co­op­er­a­tion on both bi­lat­eral and mul­ti­lat­eral fronts.

Given that the US Se­nate needs to vote on the Tai­wan-re­lated bill be­fore Trump signs it into law, US politi­cians need to thor­oughly re­flect upon the harm­ful ef­fects of those con­tro­ver­sial pro­vi­sions and do not ag­gra­vate the sit­u­a­tion. Af­ter all, it will take the ef­forts of both sides to build on the good mo­men­tum of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions and chart a brighter fu­ture for Sino-US ties.

It will take the ef­forts of both sides to build on the good mo­men­tum of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions and chart a brighter fu­ture for Sino-US ties.

The au­thor is a se­nior writer with China Daily. wanghui@ chi­

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