Thursday, March 07, 2013

Taiwan’s regional security profile grows

M60A3s maneuver at Huadong Defense Command
Amid growing regional apprehensions with China, Taipei is silently carving out a greater role for itself 

The public acknowledgement may have been accidental, but the revelation on March 4 that Singaporean soldiers in Taiwan would participate in joint live-fire exercises with their Taiwanese counterparts according to reports shouldn’t come as a surprise. As worries increase over China’s recent assertiveness, Taiwan is silently carving out a role for itself as a possible component within the region's growing security architecture.

Given its precarious situation, the island nation’s emerging role necessitates a delicate balancing act, the result of both President Ma Ying-jeou’s efforts to improve relations with Beijing and of other countries’ fear of angering China by being seen as cooperating too closely with Taipei.

The subtle shift in Taiwan’s situation occurred about two years ago. Not entirely by coincidence, this took place around the same time the U.S. was announcing its “strategic shift,” or “pivot,” to Asia as a counterweight to China. As China flexes its diplomatic and military muscles, threatening its neighbors over disputes in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, capitals in the Asia-Pacific have begun revisiting their assumptions of China’s so-called “peaceful rise.” The process, which among many decisions includes Australia’s move to allow the basing of U.S. Marines in Darwin and the eventual basing of four U.S. littoral combat ships on a rotational basis in Singapore, has also forced regional countries to take a second look at Taiwan’s role within the region and how they can cooperate with it on security matters.

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here.

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