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The time is now for the US to recalibrate its China policy to support Taiwan and adapt to a changing Asia-Pacific security climate, writes Kent Wang.
As the 116th U.S. Congress begins its work in earnest, it will be critical for members to examine the current state of U.S.-Taiwan Relations and the many opportunities that this administration can take.
The situation in the Taiwan Strait is treacherous, and the United States has a large interest in helping Taiwan because of its strategic position in the island chain bracketing China’s east coast. By increasing the deterrent value of Taiwan’s defenses and those of our other allies in the region, the United States and Taiwan can help deny China the opportunity to accomplish its goal by threat or by force.
The year 2019 presents not just challenges, but opportunities for improved U.S.-Taiwan relations. Here are five paths towards strengthening U.S.-Taiwan ties that the new U.S. Congress and the administration of President Donald Trump should consider going into the new year.
1. Recalibrate the ‘one China’ policy
Of the five countries in the world that the United States government currently does not diplomatically recognize (Syria, Iran, North Korea, Bhutan and Taiwan), Taiwan is the only full-fledged democracy.
President Trump should recalibrate the fundamentally flawed “one China” policy in favor of a more realistic “one China, one Taiwan” policy that recognizes Taiwan as a sovereign and independent country, separate from the Communist regime in China. The Trump administration should then begin the process of resuming normal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
The Taiwanese people brought about their momentous transition to democracy some forty years ago, but U.S. policy did not adapt to that new reality. By normalizing relations with Taiwan, the United States would set a shining example for other countries to emulate.
2. Approve new arms sales to Taiwan
Given the increasing threat that China poses to Taiwan and to regional stability, it is in the interests of the United States to strengthen Taiwan's defense capabilities against China.
The best way to defend the democratic island from an unprovoked attack is for Washington to provide next-generation jet fighters and allow Taiwan to at least to ensure that it can defend itself and that its self-defense capabilities are never eroded.
The United States is fully committed to the defense of Taiwan and should seriously consider to selling advanced fighters to Taiwan at the earliest opportunity. By doing so, the U.S. would not only ensure that Beijing does not miscalculate by to attempt an amphibious invasion against Taiwan and it would also provide Taipei with the backing it needs to negotiate with Beijing – on its own terms, rather than those of Xi Jinping.
3. Strengthen trade ties with Taiwan
Taiwan is currently the United States’ 10th largest trading partner with US$68.2 billion (NT$2.1 trillion) in total goods trade during 2017. The U.S. should seriously consider the benefits to be gained from greater economic integration with Taiwan.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei recently urged the U.S. government to start negotiations with Taiwan on a bilateral investment agreement (BIA). Taiwan deserves consideration to become a BIA partner. Negotiating a BIA would be an effective way to address non-tariff barriers to trade and investment and to spur more investment in both directions. U.S. asset management companies, which have already established a promising market in Taiwan, could have much to gain from BIA provisions.
U.S. government officials and lawmakers must support the launch of such talks as a step toward eventual can conclude a BIA to further regularize its extensive business exchanges. The time is right for the U.S. to proceed with exploratory consultations with Taiwan on the feasibility of a BIA.
4. Support Taiwan’s international participation
Although Taiwan is an economic success story, it has been excluded from many international organizations in which the rest of the world shares information and makes critical global decisions. If Taiwan’s voice is continuously extinguished in the international community, the United States will lose a valued democratic partner.
It is in the United States’ interest to help Taiwan access the international organizations. Taiwan is too important to the global economy. The United States should aggressively support Taiwan’s membership in international organizations that do not require statehood as a condition of membership and encourages Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations. A strong Taiwan confident in its relationship with the U.S. is key to peace and security in East Asia, and the implications of Taiwan’s economic predicament is of profound importance to the United States.
5. Bolster U.S. support using ARIA
On Dec. 31, 2018, U.S. President Trump signed into law the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA), which aims to counter China’s growing military influence. In a dedicated section on Taiwan, the act states that it is the policy of the U.S. to support the close economic, political and security relationship between the two sides and faithfully enforce all existing commitments consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) and Six Assurances.
The ARIA puts a strong emphasis where it should, which is addressing how the U.S. can work more closely and strengthen the relationship with Taiwan. This bipartisan ARIA further reiterates U.S. policy as countering efforts to change the status quo and supporting a “peaceful resolution acceptable to both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”
I hope that the 116th Congress will take seriously its obligation to the Taiwan Relations Act, the three U.S.-China joint communiqués, and the Six Assurances agreed to by former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Strengthening relations with Taiwan can help the island better protect its security.
The island’s 23 million people are certainly doing all that they can to bolster U.S.-Taiwan relations, so how about a little help from the 116th Congress and the Trump administration?
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of The News Lens.
Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)
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