Asian Wall Street Journal
if Beijing's fist-thumping, finger-wagging threats against
Taiwan last month weren't enough to make one's hair stand
on end, now comes more worrisome news. Taiwan's defense
capabilities are much weaker than previously believed, a
classified Pentagon study has found. The main reasons, as
reported in the Washington Post Friday, are arcane technology,
poor leadership and diplomatic isolation. Just as China
steps up its bullying rhetoric, Taiwan appears at its weakest.
proposals pending in Washington would go a long way toward
strengthening the island's defenses. One is the Taiwan Security
Enhancement Act, which would offer greater technical assistance
and training to Taiwan's military leaders, permit senior
American military brass to visit the island, and finally
establish direct communications between the armies. The
legislation overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives
by a vote of 314-70 in February, and is pending before the
Senate. President Clinton has threatened to veto the bill.
the U.S. could also approve the sale of military hardware
that Taipei has requested, such as air-defense missiles,
submarines and Aegis destroyers equipped with long-range
radar. A Taiwanese delegation will visit Washington later
this month to press its grocery list, but the Clinton Administration
shies away from sales of the most advanced weaponry for
fear of provoking Beijing.
then there's missile defense, a technology of growing importance
in an increasingly volatile world. Taiwan wants to be under
the umbrella of the theater missile defense system that
the U.S. and Japan are working on for the region. Beijing
doesn't like this idea and neither, so it seems, does the
Clinton White House.
of these moves would help the U.S. live up to its obligations
to Taiwan under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which stipulates
that any effort to forcibly determine Taiwan's identity
is "of grave concern to the U.S." Until recently,
American presidents crafted delicately worded statements
that remained neutral on China's claim to the island. But
in Shanghai in June 1998, Mr. Clinton unexpectedly changed
that with his "three no's" statement, opposing
Taiwanese independence or membership in state-based international
Clinton's words were widely interpreted in Asia as signifying
a significant shift in American policy toward Taiwan. Most
dangerously, they may have created the impression in Beijing
that the U.S. is no longer committed to helping Taiwan meet
its security needs. China doesn't need help when it pushes
the line that increased American assistance to the island
is provocative and unnecessary. In the U.S., China's apologists
argue that the relationship with Beijing is too important
to risk, and anyway the mainland is too weak to invade.
Therefore, their argument goes, arms sales or other moves
to strengthen ties with Taipei do more damage than good.
the reality is far different. China has already embarked
on a program to develop an offensive capability against
Taiwan, underpinned by major increases in defense spending.
And as the Clinton Administration has cooled toward Taipei,
Beijing has become more and more assertive. The U.S. is
not in a Cold War-type conflict with China, but there is
one lesson to be drawn from the standoff with the Soviet
Union: peace through strength.
weapons are needed for Taiwan's security and peace,"
Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan's newly elected president, said Friday
about the military hardware Taiwan is requesting. "They
are not for war, but for peace."
news reports of the classified Pentagon report, Defense
Secretary William Cohen says he's "satisfied"
that Taiwan is still up to defending itself. That's not
what the Pentagon report suggests. Given the Clinton Administration's
penchant for stiffing Taiwan, we'd feel safer trusting the
judgment of career military specialists.
From The Asian Wall Street Journal