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From: Apple Daily (Hong Kong) – translated and published into Chinese

"America Should Treat Taiwan as a Partner"
By Mark P. Lagon, August 12, 1999

[Mark P. Lagon is a Council on Foreign Relations Fellow at the Project for the New American Century]

In response to President Lee Teng-hui's July 9 statement that Taiwan should be considered a state in its dialogue with China, China began intimidation efforts equaling and perhaps surpassing missile tests near Kaohsiung ports in March 1996.  These efforts include PLA Air Force sorties crossing the Strait, acknowledgment that the PRC possesses a neutron bomb, reports of plans to seize Kinmen, Matsu, or Penghu, and military exercises aimed at preparing the PLA for conflict with Taiwan.

To date the U.S. Administration's response has been to placate Beijing and pressure Taipei to back down from speaking truths about Taiwan's statehood.  But as we have seen, the only result has been increased belligerence on the part of Beijing.

It is time to revise the American policy toward Taiwan in place since the 1970s.  First, a change in the global context merits a change in America's Taiwan policy.  In a widely acclaimed book on American policy toward China since President Nixon, About Face, James Mann suggests that the United States treat China neither as the threat in a potential new Cold War, nor treat it as it did during the Cold War—as a strategic partner to counterbalance Moscow.  The latter sin is substantial; Taiwan need not be isolated due to atavistic rituals of an anti-Soviet grand strategy.

Moreover, two changes in Taiwan itself prompt an American policy shift.  For over two decades U.S. policy has been premised upon recognizing that China and Taiwan both believe there is "one China."  But last month, Taiwan established that it no longer accepts that fiction.  And more importantly, Taiwan has become democratic, which is the chief reason for the Chinese Communist leadership's agitation.  A threat to the Beijing government's legitimacy lies more in the fact that Taiwan has a democratic government that an island two percent the size of China's own population might go it own way.  As a Chinese society which transformed its one-party state into a veritable democracy, Taiwan represents a model for China's future—and a deadly challenge to the current regime.  That's why China conducted missile tests during Taiwan's legislative election in July 1995 and presidential election in March 1996.

So what should a refined American policy consist of?  Three dimensions: First, the United States should end its ambiguity about whether it would come to Taiwan's defense if attacked.  Such ambiguity allowed the early 1996 Strait crisis to get out of hand, necessitating deployment of two U.S. aircraft carriers in the eleventh hour.  More than diplomatic jargon about "grave concerns" and "consequences" of Chinese aggression, the U.S. must make clear that it would respond militarily.

Second, the United States should tangibly upgrade face-to-face contacts with—and the sale of purely defensive weapons to—Taiwan.  It is a perverse situation that the U.S. has had high-level military-to-military contacts with China, but puts a ceiling on such consultation with a democracy.  Moreover, the United States has not been fulfilling its obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself.  The most advanced early warning radars and theater missile defenses should be sold to Taiwan if Taipei wants them.  These contacts and arms transfers are precisely the recommended measures in a major piece of legislation under consideration in the U.S. Congress, the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act written by Senator Jesse Helms.

Third, the United States should view Taiwan in light of a broader "Real Partnerships Doctrine." In contrast with the Clinton Administration's premature pursuit of a "Strategic Partnership" with China, the United States should go back to basics and reinforce alliances with its real partners in the region—democracies such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, and the Philippines.  Democracies tend to be the most reliable allies, ones who live up to agreements, and such a policy would send a clear signal to China's leaders how America's partners look and behave.

For that reason, even if it does not recognize Taiwan diplomatically, the United States should treat it like a real partner, too.  For instance, it should work for Taiwan's admission as a customs territory into the World Trade Organization—a step the Hong Kong SAR government has apparently helped Beijing delay through foot-dragging in bilateral talks with Taiwan.  Such signs of partnership with a democracy should be seen as foundations for a stable, cooperative international order, rather than a provocation.


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