Monday, October 6, 2008

Washington/Beijing/Taipei Relations Following the Arms Sales

Washington/Beijing/Taipei Relations Following the Arms Sales
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
October 6, 2008

On October 3, the current administration in Washington announced the sale of six items to Taipei, totalling 6.4 billion USD. This is the largest arms sale since the 1992 sale of 150 F-16A/B fighters.

The Bush administration decided long ago to proceed with the sales. But it delayed carrying them out until the end of Bush's second term. The public is not attributing the delay to the Ma administration. Instead, it is attributing the delay to tensions between Washington and Taipei. The delay reflects not merely tensions between Washington and Taipei, but also the complex relationship between Washington, Beijing, and Taipei. A spokesman for the Office of the President said the arms sale symbolizes an era of peace, security, and renewed trust between Taipei and Washington. That may be an overstatement. Critics of the Ma administration consider it an ultimatum from Washington, or even a deterioration in relations between Washington and Taipei. That is also an exaggeration.

The arms sales originated when the Bush administration took office. The Democratic Progressive Party was already in office. But as a result of the Five Noes commitment, national security was given priority. The ruling US administration joined forces with right wing Neoconservatives within the US government, in an effort to prevent China's rise. This was the background for the arms sales. At the time Blue vs. Green confrontation involved Blue Camp legislators such as Su Chi, who is now Secretary General of the National Security Council. Their vehement opposition delayed approval of the arms budget.

By the end of Bush's first term, the war in Iraq was no longer going so well. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz left one after another. The Neoconservatives lost power. The Realists gained the upper hand. The ruling DPP repeatedly upset cross-Strait relations, becoming the troublemaker for relations between Washington, Beijing, and Taipei. Washington halted arms sales to Taipei. It could not afford to reward Taipei for making trouble. This has since become the consensus.

A new administration is in office. The freeze on arm sales has been lifted. But the new administration is also promoting cross-Strait reconciliation. National defense policy is being subordinated to larger strategic concerns. One allegation after another has been leveled. One allegation was that the Han Kuang Manueuvers would not use live ammunition. The most widely discussed was an alleged change in the arms sales situation, that the Ma administration had leaned too far toward Beijing. Not only had he implemented a diplomatic cease-fire, he was destroying our national defense, handing the nation over to Beijing. Another allegation was that Washington had doubts about Ma's political views before the election, and that following the election, it was unhappy with the Ma administration's policy tilt. Washington was said to be using arms sales as a slap on the wrist.

In any case, the arms sales have been approved. That in itself refutes many of the allegations. What really deserves our attention is future relations between Washington, Beijing, and Taipei. We must take Taipei's interests and position into account. Cross-Strait relations may be improving, but the Republic of China should continue to maintain a strong national defense. This includes enhancing weapons performance and strengthening relations with our allies. Weapons R&D and the purchase of weapons from foreign sources go hand in hand, and should not be neglected. Military cooperation with friendly nations, arms purchases, and joint maneuveurs must all be maintained.

Specifically, arms sales and military cooperation should be a matter of Washington/Taipei relations. This is not something Taipei needs to discuss or should discuss with Beijing. By the same token, Washington should not negotiate arms sales to Taipei with Beijing. The Taiwan Relations Act and other security commitments to Taiwan should be Washington's sole criterion. The issue of reduced arms sales can be placed on the table only if Beijing is willing to reduce the military threat to Taipei and the two sides sign a truce, increasing the level of mutual confidence.

Washington is willing to offend Beijing by selling Taipei arms. That means Taipei/Washington relations have not changed substantially. It also confirms international Realpolitik. Washington has not changed its mind. It still wants the two sides to remain politically divided. Taipei's military armaments amount to a bargaining chip in negotiations with Beijing. Washington does not want Taipei to develop or obtain offensive weapons. Submarines are out of the question. Medium-range surface-to-surface missiles sales were also suspended. However defensive weapons may help maintain cross-Strait divided government.

From a larger perspective, Taipei is not a special case. All of East Asia, including South Korea and Japan, finds itself positioned between the two hegemons. Taipei is not alone. US involvement in arms sales to Taipei should not be assigned too much significance. It may actually help reduce tension between the three sides.

Once the arms sales were announced, Beijing's protest was to be expected. But has the unprecedented intensity of Beijing's protest had other consequences? Last week, Washington asked Beijing to cooperate with Washington in the United Nations on Iran and North Korea. Now Washington has turned around and announced its arms sales to Taipei. No wonder Beijing feels betrayed. But as we look back, we see that among the original sales items, the Patriot missiles were reduced from six sets to four. The Blackhawk helicopters were eliminated. This was Washington's way of placating Beijing, and allowing leaders in Beijing to justify themselves at home.

In any case, relations between Washington, Beijing, and Taipei have changed. Washington's policy toward Taipei now has a clear bottom line. Cross-Strait relations have eased up. The Taiwan issue is unlikely to get so far out of control as to threaten Beijing. Therefore the Taiwan issue should not be the sum total of Washington/Beijing relations. The two sides should cooperate in other areas. To Beijing, this constitutes another form of diplomatic truce.

In other words, the current relationship between Washington and Beijing will not and should not lead to conflict over Taiwan. Washington understands this. So do Beijing and Taipei.

中國時報  2008.10.06


但從布希政府初期就決定的這批軍售,遲遲要到布希任期最後一個會期才過關,一般輿論並不以此歸功於馬政府,甚至認為這反映了美台關係危機。我們以為這次軍 售案延後通過不僅反映美台關係,且是整個美中台關係的函數,總統府發言人聲稱象徵「一個和平安全及台美新信心時期」的開始,未免太樂觀;而批評者以為這是 美國「下馬威」,甚至美台關係質變,也言過其實。

軍售案的根源要從布希政府上台開始。雖然當時民進黨已執政,但受限於四不一沒有的承諾,施政以國家安全為優先,當時執政當局結合美國政府右派新保守勢力, 抑制中國的擴張,軍售案就是這種背景下的產物。但當時藍綠對抗,包括現在國安會祕書長蘇起在內的藍軍立委,動員強烈反對,導致軍售預算遲遲不能過關。


新政府上台後,雖然軍售預算解凍通過,但同時力求兩岸和解,國防政策服從於大戰略,陸續傳出令外界不解的訊息,如漢光演習不實彈射擊,其中又以軍售生變最 讓外界議論紛紛。有一說認為馬政府倒向中國太過,不僅外交休兵,連國防都自毀長城,拱手讓中國予取予求;另一說則認為美國在選前就對馬的政見有懷疑,後來 又對馬政府政策過於傾斜不滿,用軍售案施以薄懲。

無論如何,軍售既然通過,本身就反駁了許多過去的議論,但是真正應該注意的是:未來的美中台關係要往哪個方向發展?首先,從台灣的利益與立場考慮,兩岸在 逐步改善關係的同時,台灣仍應維持堅實的國防,其中包括提升武器性能,加強與友好盟邦的協防關係,而自行研發武器與外購軍品是相輔相成的手段也不能偏廢。 其他與友邦的軍事合作,除了軍購、演習計畫的相互參與觀摩,都不能停止。

更具體來說,包括軍售在內的軍事合作,應該是屬於美台之間的雙邊事務,這是兩岸不應該、也不用談的。同樣的,我們也期待美國不與中共談判對台軍售,而以 「台灣關係法」等對台安全承諾為準繩。畢竟,只有中共真正願意降低對台軍事威脅,兩岸進入停戰協定與信心增進措施談判時,軍售問題才有可能放上檯面。

其次,美國這次肯為軍售得罪北京,反映了台美之間的實質關係並未改變,也重新確認了國際政治上現實的一面。亦即美國希望兩岸在政治上分立的初衷並沒有改 變,而台灣的軍備就是面對中共談判時的籌碼本錢。美國並不希望台灣發展或取得「攻擊性」武器,所以潛艦不用談,中程地對地飛彈也被叫停,但「防禦性」武器 可以維持兩岸分治。


最後,軍售宣布之後,中共抗議本來是預料中的,但這次抗議程度空前激烈,是否會造成其他衝擊?上周,美國才剛在聯合國場邊要求中共配合伊朗與北韓政策,轉 過身來就宣布軍售,也難怪北京覺得有被欺騙的感覺。但從事後來看,原定軍售項目中,愛國者飛彈由六套減為四套,黑鷹直昇機最後沒有,這已經都是安撫北京的 妥協安排,讓北京領導人能夠對內交代。



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