Four US Defense Secretaries Send a Message
China Times News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
January 14, 2016
Executive Summary: Four days before the Republic of China presidential and legislative elections, the National Committee on US-China Relations invited four former US defense secretaries to a symposium in Washington. The chief topic was potential changes in the cross-Strait situation following the election. The event was unprecedented and noteworthy. The symposium, which featured four former US defense secretaries, revealed Washington's anxieties over changes in the Taiwan Strait. It also showed that the newly-elected government must be clear about the international situation. It must dampen any post-election euphoria. It must establish channels for communication with Beijing, and a basis for political negotiations.
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Four days before the Republic of China presidential and legislative elections, the National Committee on US-China Relations invited four former US defense secretaries to a symposium in Washington. The chief topic was potential changes in the cross-Strait situation following the election. The event was unprecedented and noteworthy. The symposium, which featured four former US defense secretaries, revealed Washington's anxieties over changes in the Taiwan Strait. It also showed that the newly-elected government must be clear about the international situation. It must dampen any post-election euphoria. It must establish channels for communication with Beijing, and a basis for political negotiations.
The National Committee on US-China Relations invited former defense secretaries, including Harold Brown, William Perry, William S. Cohen, and Chuck Hagel to participate in the round table discussion. Hagel stepped down only recently, and remains influential in US politics. The symposium sent four important signals. One. Washington is concerned about the cross-Strait situation. It convened this symposium with four former defense secretaries just before the presidential election on Taiwan. The key topic was US-China relations. But peripheral issues were also addressed. The Taiwan issue was particularly prominent. It was seen as even more important than the North Korean issue, and the South China Sea and East China Sea issues. Security was the most important aspect of the Taiwan issue. Just how will Beijing respond to a DPP return to power? The green camp characterized the symposium as a ploy by the KMT to influence the outcome of the election. This allegation is not merely false, it is also dangerous.
Two. Washington is concerned about Tsai Ing-wen's cross-Strait policy. Hagel hope that the new government would not relinquish the progress made toward common goals and appropriate consultations. These are beneficial not just to the two sides, but to the entire region. He hoped the new government would not put Washington in a difficult situation, such that it is forced to make a decision about whether to support Taiwan. Washington does not want the dispute over the 1992 Consensus to upset stable cross-Strait relations, and provoke confrontation leading to open conflict.
Three. Washington hopes the new government on Taiwan will face up to the changes in the cross-Strait situation. Perry said the US and the Soviet Union used Mutual Assured Destruction as a deterrent during the Cold War. Today, the two sides of the Strait are using “economic Mutual Assured Destruction" as a deterrent. In the event of conflict, economic losses would be inestimable. This is a more powerful deterrent than US aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Strait. Washington was clearly reminding new and militant Taiwan independence organizations that they must admit that the situation in the Taiwan Strait is not what it used to be. Washington hopes the new government will avoid confrontation.
Four. Washington hopes that Beijing will exercise restraint regarding changes on Taiwan. Cohen reiterated Washington's basic policy toward Taiwan. He told both Taipei and Beijing that the US wants to ensure cross-strait communications, and avoid the use of force. Brown noted that US arms sales amount to a message to Beijing. Beijing should not expect the United States to remain passive in the event Beijing attacks Taiwan. Washington is concerned about recent People's Liberation Army military exercises on the Mainland, and hopes Beijing will exercise restraint.
Washington's concern is not unfounded. Globalization and nationalism have provoked conflict the world over. All it takes to ignite spilled gasoline is a spark. Tribal hatreds in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria have led to civil war in the Middle East. Unresolved crises in Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, have widened conflict. Europe is torn over the refugee issue, which has provoked right wing nationalist reaction. Hungary and Poland are ruled by openly nationalist parties. In Asia, Mainland China, Japan, and India, are all holding high the banner of national revival. A recent Mainland poll showed that over 50% of the public on the Mainland believes China and Japan will fight another war. Another poll showed that over 90% of the public in Japan view China in a negative light. Even in the United States, the nationalist faction of the Republican Party has the upper hand.
In particular, Beijing continues South China Sea land reclamation. Washington insists on “defending freedom of navigation”. Pentagon hardliners are now ascendant. More members of the public want the United States to confront China. They think withdrawing from Asia means disaster. This has resulted in the reassignment of several national security chiefs, and reveals Washington's suspicions about Beijing's intentions. Washington has asked Beijing to exercise restraint, apparently due to strong internal pressure. If Beijing overreacts to changes on Taiwan by adopting a hardline stance, it could provoke a backlash in the US and Japan. During his most recent State of the Union address, President Obama said that reviving the US economy is this generation's mission. The economic outlook for the Mainland is grim. The international situation and economic stagnation have prevented the US from limiting confrontation and increasing cooperation. The Taiwan issue could result in a conflagration.
Anti-terrorism, anti-greenhouse effect, and global economic stagnation, another financial crisis, the spread of regional conflicts, and other thorny issues, require cooperation rather than confrontation, regional integration rather than protectionism. Washington-Beijing management of differences and promotion of cooperation are the key to their strategic relationship. The new government on Taiwan must realize that Washington does not want cross-Strait relations to spin out of control. It must swiftly rein in green camp hotheads, in both words and deeds. It must prevent a repeat of intense Chen Shui-bian era conflict between Taiwan nativism and Chinese nationalism.
The DPP, which is likely to return to power, must establish communications channels with officials in Beijing. Before the new government assumes office, Washington, Beijing, and Taipei should communicate with each other, in order to ensure cross-Strait stability. In particular, they must avoid nationalism based confrontation.
2016年01月14日 04:10 主筆室