Stand strong with Taipei
Recently, several former senior U.S. policymakers have recommended that the United States re-examine its support for Taiwan. Some provoked a counterchorus that proponents of this re-examination were guilty of seeking to abandon Taiwan. Should the United States be willing to abandon Taiwan in return for its closer relations with Beijing? It’s horrendous to contemplate, but it’s the kind of question that underlies a simmering debate over U.S. policy toward Taiwan.
The increasing number of academics and former officials suggesting the United States reconsider its commitment to defend Taiwan is a warning sign. Taipei has to remain vigilant because cross-strait rapprochement with China could increase American worries over cooperation with Taiwan in the military and intelligence fields. It also raises questions about the need for the United States to continue to support Taiwan.
Taipei should ensure that Washington understands its moves to increase contacts with Beijing have nothing to do with unification. Its efforts to improve crossstrait relations should take place with the understanding of Washington, in order to ensure the idea of abandoning Taiwan does not gain traction. Taipei must present more convincing arguments to persuade Washington and make cross-strait interaction as transparent as possible to ensure mutual trust.
If the Obama administration is truly intent on returning to Southeast Asia, it should do more to encourage China and Taiwan to defuse one of the Cold War’s last remaining flashpoints. The most important step the United States could take, however, would be committing to support Taiwan in ways that will not destabilize the situation across the strait. The challenge for the United States is to press China to make responsible choices that contribute to stability, prosperity, peace and human rights.
Potomac Falls, Va.