Is America’s Shifting Taiwan Policy Making Anyone Safer?

Is America’s Shifting Taiwan Policy Making Anyone Safer?

The discussion around the U.S. commitment to Taiwan has shifted from strategic ambiguity to strategic clarity. This trend has become more pronounced recently, with Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) effectively calling for pre-emptive war powers against Taiwan and former Navy Undersecretary Seth Cropsey arguing for the U.S. Plans to ban flights to Taiwan. Advocates for an end to U.S. strategic ambiguity on Taiwan have suggested that the U.S. should publicly state before any hostilities begin that it is committed to going to war to prevent China from taking Taiwan by force. While they are undoubtedly well-intentioned, proponents of this argument clearly fail to understand the serious implications of undermining the US strategic ambiguity on Taiwan and the “one China” policy upon which it rests. The Biden administration and Congress must soberly recognize their respective roles in promoting China’s escalating behavior, and they should assess whether their actions truly advance the goal of maintaining peace in Taiwan.

In recent years, policymakers have acted as if the United States had established formal relations with Taiwan and publicly committed to Taiwan’s defense. It didn’t do it either. However, the new approach to U.S.-Taiwan relations is reflected in some notable changes in official U.S. policy, including the Taiwan Travel Act and the New Guidelines for U.S. Government Interactions with Taiwanese Peers, as well as changes in rhetoric and diplomatic behavior by U.S. officials in a clear departure from One China previous practice of the policy.

In a recent example, a bipartisan group of lawmakers made a surprise visit to Taiwan to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen in what Fox News called an “official visit” by “one of the highest-level U.S. delegations to visit Taiwan.”Unsurprisingly, the visit angered China, During his visit to China, he held a large-scale joint military exercise to express his dissatisfaction and issued a stern warning that “players with fire set themselves on fire”. A spokesman for China’s Defense Ministry called the Congress visit a “provocation” that violated the “one China” principle and the three joint communiqués. A foreign ministry spokesman said China’s latest show of force, including joint combat vigilance patrols and maritime assault exercises in the East China Sea and surrounding areas of Taiwan, was directed at the delegation. A week later, China sent 11 aircraft into the southwest of Taiwan’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), the largest such incursion this month. The last time the Chinese military conducted exercises of a similar scale against the United States was in November 2021, when another group of lawmakers visited Taipei on a military transport plane.

The latest excursion by a largely Republican delegation comes shortly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi postponed a planned visit to Taipei, and the military response it sparked. Global Times This would be “Washington’s most serious provocation to China on the Taiwan issue since Taiwan leader Lee Teng-hui visited the United States in 1996.” (This is an obvious reference to the third Taiwan Strait crisis, a major turning point in cross-strait and U.S.-China relations.) On the same day Rep. Pelosi announced that she was postponing her visit because she tested positive for the new coronavirus, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi He warned that if Pelosi continued to visit, it would cross Beijing’s “red line” and promised that “China will make a firm response, and all consequences will be borne by the United States.”

China’s harsh response to such contacts between U.S. and Taiwanese officials stems from the United States’ longstanding commitment to only have unofficial ties with Taiwan. In recent years, both the Trump and Biden administrations have sought unprecedented shifts in U.S. policy and practice, making interactions between U.S. officials and Taiwanese authorities more frequent, open, and at a higher level. While the threat posed by China to Taiwan can be assessed in part on the basis of China’s military modernization, China’s actual military operations in Taiwan do not happen out of thin air. In fact, China’s acquiescence in military threats is often a signal that is linked to consistent U.S. opposition to changes in Taiwan policy and practice. China is outraged by the U.S. actions and has always responded with clear military and diplomatic signals to express its willingness to escalate violations of the “one-China principle.” As a result, U.S. leaders need to weigh more carefully the political and military consequences of this high-profile official engagement with Taiwan, and reflect on the role of strategic ambiguity in maintaining cross-strait peace.

What “Taiwan Agreement”?

In a phone call with President Xi in October 2021, President Biden reiterated his commitment to abiding by what he called the “Taiwan Agreement.” Unfortunately, there is no such agreement.Instead, Washington has a tradition of prudence and diplomatic nuance based on its three joint communiqués with China, the Taiwan Relations Act., And the now declassified six assurances to Taiwan. For nearly 40 years, successive governments have consistently pursued a policy of strategic ambiguity and “double deterrence” on cross-strait relations. Strategic ambiguity refers to the lack of a clear statement on whether the United States will defend Taiwan militarily in the event of an armed attack by the People’s Republic of China.Dual deterrence means that the US simultaneously deters China from attacking Taiwan and Prevent Taiwan from taking any action to formally declare independence from China. The core principle of this approach is the “one China policy”, the complexity of which lies in balancing good relations with Beijing and Taipei.

For China, however, the meaning of “one China” is straightforward. In the 1972 Sino-US Joint Statement Shanghai Communiqué, China declared:

The Taiwan issue is a key issue that hinders the normalization of Sino-US relations; the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government of China; Taiwan is a province that China has long returned to the motherland; the liberation of Taiwan is China’s internal affairs, and other countries have no right to interfere; all US troops and military installations must withdraw from Taiwan. The Chinese government firmly opposes any activities aimed at creating “one China, one Taiwan,” “one China, two countries,” “two Chinas,” “Taiwan independence,” or asserting that “Taiwan’s status remains unchanged.” Decide. ‘

The United States said:

The United States recognizes that all Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait believe there is only one China Taiwan is part of China. The U.S. government does not question this position. It reiterated its interest in the peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue by the Chinese themselves. With that prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate goal of withdrawing all U.S. troops and military installations from Taiwan. (emphasis added.)

The 1982 Joint Communiqué clearly stated:

In the Joint Communiqué on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations issued by the Governments of the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China on January 1, 1979, The United States of America recognizes the government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, and recognizes that there is only one China in China and Taiwan is a part of China. In this context, both sides agree that the people of the United States will continue to maintain cultural, commercial and other unofficial relations with the people of Taiwan. On this basis, U.S.-China relations were normalized. (emphasis added.)

The US has also made it clear that it is interested in a “peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue by the Chinese themselves.” The Taiwan Relations Act, which reiterates Washington’s “expectation that Taiwan’s future will be determined by peaceful means,” requires the United States to maintain a robust program of military assistance and commercial and cultural engagement with Taiwan. However, the US formally severed official ties with Taiwan, a clear basic condition of normal relations between Washington and Beijing. Since then, the U.S. government has exercised caution to avoid any official relationship with Taiwan authorities, an engagement that clearly threatens to upset the delicate diplomatic balance that has maintained decades of peaceful cross-strait relations.

Washington’s longstanding commitment to the “One China” policy and unofficial relations with Taiwan did not go into serious trouble until the Trump administration took office, leading to a sharp rise in tensions with China over the past few years. Former President Donald Trump took a call from Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen shortly after his election and began to dabble in high-stakes international diplomacy, breaking with all efforts by successive presidents since 1979 to avoid official relations with Taiwan. Taiwan government. While this was initially dismissed as a “little trick” by Chinese leaders, the Trump administration has since taken several other symbolic diplomatic steps that predictably angered China.

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