Political considerations associated with US arms sales to Taiwan are forcing Washington, Taipei and Beijing to make bad policy decisions, a new report says
A report co-authored by a former commander-in-chief of the US Pacific Command is calling on Washington to re-examine its relationship with Taiwan, especially on what it calls the “vicious circle” of arms sales.
The product of a three-day roundtable at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center for Public Affairs in January, A Way Ahead with China: Steering the right course with the Middle Kingdom explores how the US could improve relations with China and portrays Taiwan as the principal irritant in the evolving bilateral relationship.
“Today, the changing and evolving US/China relationship demands a practical strategy,” the introductory letter by center director Gerald Baliles says. “There must be careful consideration of what both nations seek to gain from this relationship, and of how the relationship itself affects the balance of nations worldwide.”
Part of that practical strategy, the report says, involves rethinking longstanding US security commitments to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act.
“The United States takes a somewhat protectionist stance with Taiwan historically,” the report says. “However, Taiwan is now an economically successful democratic institution that is slowly tending towards greater alignment with the Mainland [China]. Our involvement with Taiwan is a frequent point of contention with the Chinese, particularly in respect to arms sales, and one that should be re-examined. The complex relationship is political and should be re-examined outside of a military context.”
Among the authors of the report are admiral Joseph Prueher, former ambassador to the People’s Republic of China under former US presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and former commander-in-chief of the US Pacific Command (PACOM), former Pacific Command commander admiral Timothy Keating, as well as James Shinn, National Intelligence Officer for East Asia at the CIA. Two specialists on China, Charles Freeman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and David Lampton of Johns Hopkins University, also took part, as did representatives from FedEx Express.
My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.