ROC Security Needs G2 Communication
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 4, 2012
Summary: After expressions of concern by many, and nearly three months delay, King Pu-tsung finally arrived in Washington and assumed his duties as the Taipei's Representative to Washington. When asked how he felt, he said the only difference was that "Today is an important new beginning." American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Burghardt said Taipei-Washington relations are the best they have been in 30 years. Bilateral relations are good, in both the private and public sectors. King Pu-tsung once said he "would not join the government, and would not join the cabinet." Why is this new post so important that he would break his promise?
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After expressions of concern by many, and nearly three months delay, King Pu-tsung finally arrived in Washington and assumed his duties as the Taipei's Representative to Washington. When asked how he felt, he said the only difference was that "Today is an important new beginning." American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Burghardt said Taipei-Washington relations are the best they have been in 30 years. Bilateral relations are good, in both the private and public sectors. King Pu-tsung once said he "would not join the government, and would not join the cabinet." Why is this new post so important that he would break his promise?
The answer is obvious -- increasingly strained relations between Beijing and Washington.
Ma Ying-jeou became president in 2008. Almost immediately, Washington-Beijing confrontation intensified, especially when the Obama administration declared the following year that the US would "return to Asia." Storm clouds gathered over the Asian-Pacific Rim, in the East China Sea and South China Sea. Despite subsequent developments, they have yet to dissipate. In late October, Beijing dispatched ocean surveillance ships to waters surrounding the Diaoyutai Islands for an "indefinite period." This "normalized" navigation through the waters, in response to Japan's "nationalization" of the islands. Confrontation between Beijing and Tokyo intensified. Several days ago, the U.S. Senate decided to interpret the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. It declared that Article V of the US-Japan Security Treaty applied to the Diaoyutai Islands, and that in the event of a Sino-Japanese conflict, the United States would intervene, possibly even directly, with force. This inflamed the situation even more.
In August 2010, the U.S. State Department declared that the Diaoyutai Islands were still under Japan's administrative jurisdiction. Therefore they were covered by the US-Japan Security Treaty. Japan's "nationalization" of the Diaoyutai Islands made Beijing realize it could no longer tolerate "business as usual." The bilateral conflict did not end there. In 2009, just as the Diaoyutai Islands dispute was surfacing, the Philippines proclaimed the baselines for its territorial waters. It alleged that Huangyan Island and the Nansha Islands were part of its sovereign territory. The South China Sea issue has become another attention-getting Beijing-Wasington confrontation.
The United States used the South Korean Tianan ship incident as a pretext to increase diplomatic pressure in the Western Pacific region and to call for more strategic exercises. Mainland Chinese forces gathered for the first time in the North China Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea. One after another, they conducted joint exercises in the East China Sea, Bashi Channel, and the Nansha Islands. Shortly thereafter, in 2011, the long-awaited aircraft carrier was launched, ahead of schedule. This touched off a new arms race in the region. Recently the Mainland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued new passports, complete with diagrams which included the disputed areas as part of its sovereign territory. The Hainan People's Congress amended the law. It authorized provincial public security officials to board and search "illegal" foreign ships in South China Sea waters. The Mainland's State Oceanic Administration vowed to tighten controls over the Xisha waters, beginning next year. It also normalized law enforcement in waters surrounding Huangyan Island. This led to increased tensions in the South China Sea.
Beijing-Washington confrontation is nothing new. Strategically and geopolitically, Taipei finds itself caught between the two powers. How should it seek to survive? The challenges are already multiplying. Su Chi, former Secretary-General of the National Security Council, said Ma administration policy is to "make peace with the Mainland, maintain friendship with Japan, and remain close to the United States." In practice, this means the promotion of cross-Strait talks and diplomatic truce, and closer Taipei-Tokyo economic and trade ties. It also means increased understanding and trust from Washington in exchange for concessions on US beef imports. These all reflect hard work by senior government officials. But Washington-Beijing grievances, and regional conflicts are growing. Implementing the foregoing strategic objectives may not be easy.
Admittedly, dealing with the G2 is not easy matter. But there is still room to maneuver. The key is to make clear to the two powers that Taipei's position is benevolent. In 2009, during the Ma administration's first term, King Pu-tsung was a researcher at the Brookings Institution. Various parties speculated that he would convey Taipei's policy to Washington. He has since been "promoted" to Representative to the United States. This reflects new pressures resulting from the deterioration of Beijing-Washington relations. This is apparently something he could not address in his former capacity. It is widely believed that "Whether King has foreign policy experience is not important. What is important, is that he is Ma's avatar." This "special relationship" reveals anxieties about the regional scenario. We must avoid misunderstandings with Washington that could lead to unnecessary difficulties for Taipei. For the moment, King is irreplaceable.
For the foreseeable future, Washington will remain the main pillar of Taipei's security. We look forward to King fulfilling his mission. We hope he will successfully communicate with Washington and prevent peripheral conflicts from undermining ROC security. We hope the environment will remain predictable, and development will remain sustainable.