How Should Taipei Position Itself in East Asia?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
December 13, 2013
Summary: The Washington-Beijing major balance of power has become imbalanced. The
Tokyo-Seoul minor balance of power is also changing. As an East Asian
government, Taipei cannot sit idly by. It must reassess the situation
and respond. It matters not what message King Pu-tsung brought back from
Washington. Taipei faces increasing pressure from both Beijing and
Washington. Can Taipei establish a new East Asian security strategy? Can
it find a new posture amidst unbalanced power relations in East Asia?
These are the government's most urgent national security concerns.
Full text below:
King Pu-tsung, the Republic of China's Representative to the US, has quietly returned home. He is rumored to have conveyed Washington's concern about Taipei's stand on Beijing's East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). He allegedly arranged for EPA Director Gina McCarthy to visit Taipei. Not surprisingly, the premature leaking of this highly symbolic visit displeased Washington and led to its cancellation.
East Asia is undergoing complex changes. Beijing's East China Sea ADIZ has affected the balance of power between Washington, Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, and Taipei. Washington seeks Taipei's cooperation. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs leakk was unforgivable. Taipei constantly harps on its now old "East China Sea Peace Initiative." But its highest priority should be to decide exactly where it stands on the issue.
Seoul recently announced a further expansion of its own ADIZ, which now includes the southern tip of Jeju Island, Marlowe Island, and Red Island. It overlaps islands within Beijing's ADIZ. This is seen as the first countermove by an East Asian nation. South Korea is attempting to fine tune the strategic picture. In the past, Seoul avoided taking sides among Washington, Tokyo, and Moscow. It attempted to split the difference and maintain the delicate balance between Beijing and Washington. It attempted to maximize its own national interests. The current initiative from Seoul can be seen as an attempt at balanced East Asian diplomacy. It may have a domino effect for neighboring countries, and force them to take sides. This warrants concern.
In 2009, Washington announced that it was "returning to Asia." In East Asia, there is one major balance of power and three minor balances of power. All are linked, and all affect each other. The major balance of power is the "constructive strategic partnership" between the United States and Mainland China. It is Washington's attempt to "contain" Beijing while simultaneously engaging in coopetition. The three minor balances of power take place within the framework of Washington-Beijing coopetition. These are moves made by Tokyo, Seoul, and Taipei within the Washington-Beijing framework. For example, the Democratic Party of Japan has adopted a "comprehensively strategic, mutually beneficial" toward Beijing. Park Geun-hye of Korea has adopted a strategic partnership with Beijing. The Ma administration in Taipei has adopted a balanced diplomacy policy that befriends Washington, Beijing, and Tokyo.
The major balance of power and three minor balances of power depends on three factors. One. The major balance of power depends on the maintenance of internal power. It depends on the ebb and flow of Beijing and Washington's military strength in East Asia. It depends on whether Beijing challenges Washington's core interests in East Asia, the South China Sea, and the East China Sea. It depends on whether Beijing attempts to transform its brown water navy into a blue water navy. These will determine whether cooperation or competition will prevail between Washington and Beijing. Two. The minor balance of power depends on the tug of war between the weaker powers. Tokyo and Seoul are Washington's military allies. But the two have long clashed over the sovereignty of the Dokdo Islands, This has enabled Washington and Beijing to intervene. Three. The major balance of powers and the minor balances of power involve dynamic equilibrium and the internalization of conflicts. Beijing and Tokyo have clashed over the Diaoyutai Islands. But Washington still considers this a territorial dispute between China and Japan, one that will not change the status quo in East Asia.
But consider the major balance of power and the three minor balances of power. These were once in equilibrium. But Beijing's ADIZ changed the balance of power. Confrontation followed. One. Beijing's ADIZ enabled aircraft to take off and land from the Liaoning aircraft carrier in the East China Sea. It also enabled Beijing to break through the Western Pacific island chain, through the Miyako Strait. This changed the ebb and flow of Washington-Beijing military power in East Asia. Two. Beijing included islands claimed by Seoul within its ADIZ This pulled Seoul into the East China Sea dispute. This gave Tokyo and Seoul common cause to oppose Beijing. Washington may seize the opportunity to bridge the gap with Tokyo and Seoul. Three. The East China Sea ADIZ has expanded the Sino-Japanese dispute over sovereignty of the Diaoyutai Islands. It has turned it into an East China Sea regional conflict. It has externalized the conflict, and will gradually change the status quo in East Asia.
Consider the three minor balances of power. In September last year, the Noda Cabinet's Diaoyutai "nationalization" destroyed any "comprehensively strategic, mutually beneficial" relationship between Beijing and Tokyo. Bilateral conflict is intensifying. Tokyo has reverted to its unconditionally pro-Washington policy. It has begun actively courting Washington and Tokyo's East Asian neighbors, to counter Beijing. Seoul has expanded its East China Sea ADIZ. Beijing's ADIZ and Seoul's ADIZ now overlap. It has shattered Park Geun-hye aggressive attempt to strike a balance between Beijing and Washington. Cracks have appeared in the Beijing-Seoul "strategic partnership."
The Washington-Beijing major balance of power has become imbalanced. The Tokyo-Seoul minor balance of power is also changing. As an East Asian government, Taipei cannot sit idly by. It must reassess the situation and respond. It matters not what message King Pu-tsung brought back from Washington. Taipei faces increasing pressure from both Beijing and Washington. Can Taipei establish a new East Asian security strategy? Can it find a new posture amidst unbalanced power relations in East Asia? These are the government's most urgent national security concerns.
2013.12.13 04:29 am