Washington is drifting into a new crisis over the Taiwan issue.
No headlines have warned Taiwan’s relations with Mainland China are not far from the minds of the Communist leadership in Beijing. But Communist Party Boss Xi Jinping publicly threatened the current ambiguous relationship cannot continue, but refused to meet Taiwan Pres. Ma Ying-cheou. Ma has gone very far to extend economic and cultural ties to the Mainland, much too far for many on the Island. The mood was recently jarred with a highly publicized video of a Mainland military exercise including an unmistakable depiction of an attack on Taiwan’s presidential palace.
The Obama Administration is faced with implementing the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979. That piece of legislation prevented Pres. Jimmy Carter from abandoning Taiwan. requiring a continued working arrangement with support for Taiwan’s defenses. House of Representatives legislation in the last Congress extending military sales to Taiwan was one of many pieces of legislation then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed blocked.
It’s been almost 15 years since we have added to Taiwan’s defense – aircraft and submarines, particularly, needed to offer defense from a Mainland attack. And that is much too long given the growing expenditures and growth of Communist Mainland’s military.
There has been a sort of Alphonse and Gaston act holding up the weapons. The Taiwan parliament has been reluctant to vote funds and the U.S. has been inactive authorizing them, especially with the Obama Administration’s general strategy of courting U.S. enemies and opponents.
But events both on the Mainland and in Taiwan are exacerbating what many had hoped was a sleeping dog.
Communist Party Secetary Xi Jinping is bearing down hard, not only against his own Party opponents, but against resistance outlying areas of the People’s Republic. Repression and immigration by Han Chinese has produced an armed resistance among Turkic minorities in westernmost Singkiang. Almost weekly self immolation by dissidents continues after the cutoff by Beijing of negotiations with the Dalai Lama for Tibetan autonomy.
With a half million Taiwanese operating manufacturing on the Mainland, Beijing has used the economic incentive to press for a political settlement. But Taiwan Pres. Ma’s efforts – given the Island’s lacklustre economy in a worldwide slowdown – has produced a backlash.
As a result, Ma’s Nationalist Party has sagged in the polls appears headed for a smashing defeat in the presidential elections in January. His opponents, the Democratic Progressive Party which once called for formal recognition of Taiwan independence, is expected to win handily. Its following has been enhanced by the Sunflower student movement, a strong political force. Its anti-Beijing stance takes its cues from Hong Kong where Beijing’s promised “one country, two systems” is being subversted by Beijing’s pressure.
Beijing’s aggressive moves into the South China Sea – building bases a thousand miles beyond its southern shores on coral shoals – has changed strategic considerations. Maintaining the de facto independence of Taiwan – the preference of mostTaiwanese – has now become not only a moral and legal issue for Washington, but a strategic necessity. Communist control of Taiwan ports would breach “the first island chain” and enchance Beijing’s threat to freedom of navigation as the U.S. Navy downsizes. Strategists in America’s keystone ally, Japan, increasingly cognizant of Beijing and North Korean threats, have always considered a neutral Taiwan essential to defense of its home islands.
Boosting Taiwan’s defenses is now more than ever an important part of any American strategy. It’s time the Obama Administration picked up the cudgels on arms to Taiwan regime, despite anticipated protests from Beijing, but in the face of a growing a military threat by the neo-Maoist regime.