China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 13, 2016
Executive Summary: Only the United States and Mainland hold the power of life and death over Taiwan. Only they can determine Taiwan's long-term stability. Japan has never been a major factor. Japan wants Taiwan to join its anti-China coalition. That is something that can be considered. But Japan must have the strength and strategies to provide Taiwan with strategic guarantees. It must demonstrate its trustworthiness. The Tsai government must not trade illusory Japanese fireworks displays, only to risk our national security in return.
Full Text Below:
A stable nation requires a stable national security strategy. If its strategic framework develops problems or becomes distorted, the nation will experience internal divisions and encounter external conflict.
During the Ma era, the government maintained a policy of being “close to the US, at peace with the Mainland, and friendly with Japan”. Consequently despite its one China policy, the US defended the cross-Strait status quo. Despite its one China policy, the Mainland promoted cross-Strait peace. Based on the 1992 Consensus and one China, different interpretations, Taipei maintained relations with both the United States and the Mainland. Despite the three sides' different perspectives, Taipei was able to maintain the “status quo” that the Tsai regime currently enjoys and benefits from.
The new government asserts that it is "maintaining the status quo", even as it dismantles the existing national security framework. First, the new government is abandoning the 1992 Consensus. It is rejecting the "Two Sides, One China" premise embodied in the Constitution. It asserts that it is doing its utmost to “be at peace with China”, even though it has turned a deaf ear to political signals from the Mainland. Communications have been severed between the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS). Communications between the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and the Mainland's Taiwan Affairs Office have been severed as well. Official government to government contacts no longer exist. Communications through ECFA have also reportedly ceased. The consequences extend far beyond the initially anticipated reduction in Mainland tourism and short-term cessation in exchange students.
Meanwhile, the Tsai government has stepped up its efforts to "be close to the US" and "friendly with Japan". President Tsai has repeatedly begged the US to support Taiwan's membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The cabinet is preparing to allow the importation of US pork containing Ractopamine. The Minister of Defense has informed the Legislative Yuan of the transport of 40,000 artillery shells to Taiping Island. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has been forced to apologize to the AIT and offer an explanation. Six former AIT Taipei Office Directors have given current US-Taiwan relations a thumbs up. The Chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, led by John McCain, will lead the largest congressional delegation to Taiwan in recent years. As we can see, we have sacrificed real benefits in exchang for a fireworks display from the US. Once the fireworks are over, there will be nothing left to see.
Being "friendly with Japan" is even more baffling.
Since the Tsai government came to power, it has issued reckless statements about the status of Cong Zi Niao Reef, all the way from "Its status is undetermined" to "It's a reef". It has promised that negotiations in July will settle the matter satisfactorily, and that "The Cong Zi Niao Reef issue is no longer a fashionable topic". Does the new government even give a damn about Taiwan fishermen and their survival? It intends to permit the importation of irradiated foodstuffs from Fukushima, but has yet to formulate a credible policy. The Tsai government has assigned DPP heavyweights Chiou I-jen and Frank Hsieh to handle relations with Japan. The Tsai government has, intentionally or otherwise, leaked word that bilateral relations may be revised. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent his younger brother Nobuo Kishi to meet with President Tsai. These developments clearly show that Tsai Ing-wen intends to chummy up to Japan. We have yet to mention the photo op with Abe's mother seated next to President Tsai, deliberately intended to underscore friendly relations. To the Taiwan public, this was a dazzling fireworks display.
But national interests are not fireworks displays. Fireworks displays may catch our eye, but once they are over, nothing of substance remains. Among nations, friendship is fleeting, interests alone are enduring. If we give Japan what it wants, what will Japan give us in return? What can Japan give us in return? Abe has long hoped to draw Taiwan into Japan's anti-China coalition. But it has not been willing to pay a price. Now the Tsai government has sacrificed Taiwan fishermens' fishing rights and Taiwan consumers' right to food safety -- merely to curry favor with Japan, in return for what?
From a larger national security perspective, the Tsai government has departed from the status quo. It is moving step by step toward a whole new state of affairs, one lacking any corresponding security framework. In other words, the Tsai government may have promised to "maintain the status quo". It then put on a dazzling fireworks display. But amidst all the fireworks, one finds nothing of substance. What, amidst all the fireworks, happened to our national interests?
Taiwan's historical origins and geographical location mean that economically and culturally we must deal with the Mainland, Japan, and the United States. Relations with all three are unavoidable. Taiwan must understand its political and security relationship with the United States and the Mainland. Japan can do no more than negotiate the middle ground between the United States and the Mainland. That is not something Taiwan can change.
As the above shows, only the United States and Mainland hold the power of life and death over Taiwan. Only they can determine Taiwan's long-term stability. Japan has never been a major factor. Japan wants Taiwan to join its anti-China coalition. That is something that can be considered. But Japan must have the strength and strategies to provide Taiwan with strategic guarantees. It must demonstrate its trustworthiness. The Tsai government must not trade illusory Japanese fireworks displays, only to risk our national security in return.