Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Exchange of SEF/ARATS offices could be a blessing

Radomes in Hualien
Semi-official ARATS offices in Taiwan would serve as spy magnets and could help counterintelligence track the bad guys 

Much has been said in recent days about plans between Taipei and Beijing to establish branches of the semi-official agencies in charge of cross-strait negotiations in their respective countries, with critics comparing the move to allowing an enemy into one’s house.

Building upon years of cross-strait dialogue on trade, culture and tourism, the agencies that have served as the platforms for negotiations since 2008 — the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) — are looking to build a permanent presence in each other’s country. This is not an unusual move and it makes sense in the context of the ongoing liberalization of cross-strait ties.

 However, as the Taiwan Solidarity Union warned on Monday, the presence of ARATS offices in Taiwan comports risks, and could certainly facilitate intelligence gathering and united front work in the country, much like the Xinhua news agency office in Hong Kong served as a base for Chinese spies in the years prior to the handover from Britain in 1997.

That said, there might also be advantages to having ARATS offices in Taiwan. My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.

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