Any military confidence-building mechanism between Taiwan and China will be asymmetrical, because only one side threatens the other militarily
Taipei may have turned down Beijing’s offer this time around, claiming the time was not propitious, but it is becoming increasingly evident that at some point between now and the 2012 presidential election, the two sides will sit down and discuss military matters in the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman Yang Yi (楊毅) on Wednesday made headlines with his proposal that, when the conditions are right, Taipei and Beijing should sit down and discuss military confidence-building mechanisms and the possible dismantlement of the more than 1,500 ballistic missiles that continue to threaten Taiwan, despite allegedly warming ties.
Although the Mainland Affairs Council and, somewhat surprisingly, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said the same day that mutual trust had yet to reach a point where such talks would be feasible, pressure is likely to mount in the coming months on President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to come to the table and discuss “peace.” In that respect, Yang’s announcement was again proof of how cannily Beijing can play the political game. After all, which peace-loving nation — including the US, Taiwan’s main ally — could, in its right mind oppose “peace” talks in what remains one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints? (Never mind that confidence building creates a moral equivalence in the Taiwan Strait that simply does not exist, as only one side, China, is the aggressor.)
As the expected pressure mounts, the ball will be in Taipei’s court, with Beijing’s peace overture once again portraying the latter as the “rational” actor in the equation and Taiwan as the reluctant partner. Deferral on Taipei’s part, meanwhile, will likely be blamed on the “anti China” elements in Taiwan — in other words, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and anyone who supports Taiwanese independence. That deferral will mostly stem from electoral considerations by Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which is cognizant of the fact that rushing into political negotiations with China will open a Pandora’s box of controversies that can only cost it votes.
My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.