October 6, 2008

HARRISONBURG— Today in a commentary for National Interest online, the web edition of the foreign policy journal The National Interest, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, responds to the announcement last Friday of a $6.5 billion arms sale to Taiwan.

Dr. Pham argues that “ however helpful and welcome the arms sale is, a careful examination of the current situation along the Taiwan Strait reveals dynamics which cannot be adequately addressed with even the most advanced defense technologies.” The article notes that “while rhetorical and political tensions between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) government on Taiwan have decreased considerably since the inauguration in May of the latter’s President Ma Ying-jeou who has undertaken a pragmatic diplomacy with the mainland,” the mainland regime has not relented in its efforts to isolate Taipei diplomatically,” including blocking a recent effort at the United Nations General Assembly to just discuss possible Taiwanese participation in specialized UN agencies dealing with technical and safety issues. Thus:

 Shut out of international forums, to say nothing of formal alliances, the ROC’s strategic horizons are increasingly darkened by the rapid modernization of the People’s Liberation Army which has largely wiped out the technological edge which the smaller Taiwanese forces once enjoyed. The growing mastery of joint operations control and the vast arms build-up on the mainland side of the strait make the use of force, which Beijing has never ruled out, an all-the-more tempting option, while rendering the American “balance of neutrality”—official agnosticism about the future status of Taiwan and opposition to both PRC military coercion and any unilateral formal declaration of independence by the ROC—increasingly untenable.

The analysis concludes:

The results of Taiwan’s March 23 elections made clear that the vast majority of Taiwanese of all political persuasions view themselves as citizens of an independent, sovereign state distinct from the mainland and, their growing trade and investment ties notwithstanding, are not particularly interested in being incorporated into it. The question is whether, after American voters themselves go to the polls in four weeks, there will be an administration in Washington prepared from day one to reassess U.S. policy and align it on a more stable basis with the realities on the Taiwan Strait. After all, while it is a certainty that the “one China” policy suits Beijing, can one be so sure that it is in America’s national interests .

The full text of Dr. Pham’s commentary, “Strait Talk about the Arms Sale,” can be accessed by clicking here.