United Daily News Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
July 14, 2016
Executive Summary: Once the unfavorable ruling by the Hague on the South China Sea was announced, the Tsai regime immediately dispatched the cruiser Dihua to the South China Sea. President Tsai Ing-wen stood on its deck and declared her determination to defend the homeland. The Ministry of Defense established response centers. The scene revealed three things. One. The government was much too slow to respond militarily. Two. The government totally misjudged the situation. Three. President Tsai cannot rule by speech making.
Full Text Below:
Once the unfavorable ruling by the Hague on the South China Sea was announced, the Tsai regime immediately dispatched the cruiser Dihua to the South China Sea. President Tsai Ing-wen stood on its deck and declared her determination to defend the homeland. The Ministry of Defense established response centers. The scene revealed three things. One. The government was much too slow to respond militarily. Two. The government totally misjudged the situation. Three. President Tsai cannot rule by speech making.
Earlier plans called for Tsai Ing-wen to issue a statement the same night as the “ruling”. But her statement was delayed until yesterday. The reason for the delay was quite simple. The “ruling” was not at all what the government expected. Taiping Island is now in grave danger. As a result, the president's original statement had to be circular filed, and a new statement drafted overnight.
The Tsai government deluded itself with wishful thinking. It assumed that because Taiping Island is clearly an island, the tribunal could hardly rule otherwise. It assumed that Mainland China's "U-shaped line", on the other hand, would face serious challenges. The Tsai regime could then distance itself from Beijing. It could show the United States and other nations that it was on their side, rather than the Mainland's. But who knew the Permanent Court of Arbitration would be so unfriendly? Who knew it would slap Taiwan right across the face, along with the Mainland? Who knew it would demean Taiwan independence by referring to Taiwan as “China's Taiwan”?
These changes in the South China Sea rules of the game took the Tsai regime completely by surprise. The “ruling” was not at all what it expected. As a result, those agencies responsible were caught totally off-guard and unprepared. The most obvious example occurred during the large scale military exercises held by the United States and the Mainland in the South China Sea. The Tsai regime, citing "Typhoon Prevention" as pretext, pulled two ROC Coast Guard cutters from Taiping Island. When questioned by the Legislative Yuan, Coast Guard Administration Chief Li Chung-wei had the temerity to claim he “never considered the impact the South China Sea “ruling” might have. Under Legislative Yuan pressure, the government temporarily reassigned the ROC Navy cruiser Wei Hsing to Taiping Island. When the “ruling” was announced, the Tsai regime cited “inadequate defensive capability" as pretext. Still later, it flip-flopped, and dispatched the ROC Navy cruiser Dihua to defend our southern border. The National Security Council's response reminds one of the old anecdote about “Father and Son Ride a Donkey”.
Beijing, by contrast, seized the initiative. It blasted the tribunal's credibility and the validity of its “rulings”. The Mainland understood its situation. As a result, its response covered all the baes. The Tsai government, on the other hand, was sleepwalking. This brings us to several points that need to be acknowledged.
First, Tsai regime hostility toward the Mainland blinded it to ROC national interests. In politics there are no perpetual enemies or perpetual friends. For those in authority, the most important consideration must be national interests. On the South China Sea issue, the two sides may have divided jurisdiction. But their sovereignty claims are overwhelmingly congruent. The legitimacy of ROC claims to South China Sea islands such as Taiping Island and Dongsha Island, is closely related to PRC claims regarding the “U-shaped line”. But the DPP hates the Mainland. President Tsai refuses to recognize the 1992 Consensus. The new regime feels smug in its recent victory. It hoped to use the “ruling” to distance itself from the Mainland, and show the international community it was a “staunch ally”. But the “ruling” trampled over the sovereignty of both the ROC and the PRC simultaneously. It denied ROC sovereignty over Taiping Island. For the new regime the debacle came as a complete surprise .
Second, the makeup of the National Security Council was too uniform. As a result its judgments were skewed. President Tsai listened to reports from a wide range of responsible agencies. She considered a wide range of possible scenarios. But her staffers were overly optimistic. Therefore they lacked an integrated response. Never mind a back-up plan. This was the reason for the new regime's incoherence. On the eve of the tribunal “ruling”, green camp policy on the South China Sea was set almost exclusively by Taiwan Braintrust Deputy Executive Director Lin Ting-hui. He was absolutely certain "our rights to Taiping Island will not be undermined". Wang Ting-yu echoed his assumption, and protested that Taiping Island was not even on the agenda. Their entire aim was to defame Ma Ying-jeou. How could they possibly be objective? The new regime does not like listening to contrary opinions. Why else would it fall into the trap of “selective perception”?
Third, the Tsai government lacked an independent and sovereign mindset. It naively assumed its allies would back its play. On the eve of the “finding”, the Presidential Office boasted about how it complied with international law and with the Convention on the Law of the Sea. It expressed naive faith in the tribunal. It ignored the fact that the tribunal denied the ROC any participation in the case, and accorded it zero respect. Nor did the United States provide the Tsai regime with useful information. The new regime assume it was invincible. It lowered its guard. In hindsight, it may have been misled by the United States. It may have been misled by its own unrequited love. In any event, it lost the ability to defend our sovereignty. It unwittingly brought catastrophe down on our heads. The United States and Japan have joined hands to contain Mainland China. If the Tsai government refuses to change its ways, if it persists in being a willing pawn on behalf of US hegemony, the consequences will be disastrous indeed.
The tribunal alleged that Taiping Island was a "reef". It claimed it lacks a 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone. This international body demeaned our status. The Tsai regime's days of issuing feel-good national security alerts have come to an end.