The US may sail a warship around Taiwan in an attempt to back up China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

The US may sail a warship around Taiwan in an attempt to back up China

US Navy uss lassen
The USS Lassen (DDG 82) patrolling the eastern Pacific Ocean.
US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Huey D. Younger Jr.
  • The United States is considering sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait, US officials say.
  • A US warship passage, should it happen, could be seen in Taiwan as a fresh sign of support by President Donald Trump after a series of Chinese military exercises around the self-ruled island.
  • China has alarmed Taiwan by ramping up military exercises this year, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island and sending its carrier through the narrow Taiwan Strait.

WASHINGTON — The United States is considering sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait, US officials say, in a move that could provoke a sharp reaction from Beijing at a time when Sino-US ties are under pressure from trade disputes and the North Korean nuclear crisis.

A US warship passage, should it happen, could be seen in Taiwan as a fresh sign of support by President Donald Trump after a series of Chinese military exercises around the self-ruled island. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory.

US officials told Reuters that the United States had already examined plans for an aircraft carrier passage once this year but ultimately did not pursue them, perhaps because of concerns about upsetting China.

The last time a US aircraft carrier transited the Taiwan Strait was in 2007, during the George W. Bush administration, and some US military officials believe a carrier transit is overdue.

Another less provocative option would be resuming the periodic, but still infrequent, passages by other US Navy ships through the strait, the latest of which was in July.

The Pentagon declined to comment on any potential future operations, and it was unclear how soon a passage might take place.

Speaking in Beijing, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, urged the United States to prudently handle the Taiwan issue so as to avoid harming bilateral ties and peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait region.

“We have repeatedly emphasized that the Taiwan issue is the most important and sensitive core issue in the China-US relationship,” she said at a daily news briefing on Tuesday.

Trump, who in 2016 broke protocol as president-elect by taking a phone call from Taiwan’s president, has toned down his rhetoric about Taiwan in recent months as he seeks China’s aid in the nuclear standoff with North Korea.

The United States and China are also trying to find their way out of a major trade dispute that has seen the world’s two economic heavyweights threaten tit-for-tat tariffs on goods worth up to $150 billion.

China has alarmed Taiwan by ramping up military exercises this year, including flying bombers and other military aircraft around the island and sending its carrier through the narrow Taiwan Strait separating it from Taiwan.

“They’re turning up the heat,” a fourth US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the US’s view of Chinese activities around Taiwan.

Separately, it now appears unlikely the United States will send top officials to a June 12 dedication ceremony for the new American Institute in Taiwan, America’s de facto embassy in Taiwan. Washington does not have formal ties with Taipei.

US officials told Reuters that the date clashed with the planned June 12 summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but added that there would be another opportunity to commemorate the institute’s unveiling in September.

Case-by-case arms sales

Since taking office, Trump has approved a $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan and angered Beijing by signing legislation encouraging visits by senior US officials to Taiwan. Trump also named John Bolton, known as a strong Taiwan supporter, as his national security adviser.

The fourth US official told Reuters that Washington aimed to change the way it approaches arms sales requests from Taiwan to address them on a case-by-case basis, as opposed to bundling them together.

Rupert Hammond-Chambers at the US-Taiwan Business Council trade association said that moving away from bundling — a practice in place for a decade — would be better for Taipei’s defense needs, treating it more like a regular security partner.

“We get into difficulty when we treat Taiwan differently, which opens the door for the politicization of the [arms sales] process,” Hammond-Chambers said.

Military experts say that the balance of power between Taiwan and China has shifted decisively in China’s favor in recent years and that China could easily overwhelm the island unless US forces came quickly to Taiwan’s aid.

The United States is bound by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it is unclear whether Washington would want to be dragged into war with China over the island.

Asked about US obligations to Taiwan, Lt. Col. Christopher Logan, a Pentagon spokesman, noted that Washington had sold Taiwan more than $15 billion worth of weaponry since 2010.

“We have a vital interest in upholding the current rules-based international order, which features a strong, prosperous, and democratic Taiwan,” Logan said.

SEE ALSO: US disregards Beijing’s nonsense, says it can take down South China Sea islands

Donald Trump Is Using 23 Million People In Taiwan As A Trade Bargaining Ploy With China?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Why Donald Trump Really Shouldn’t Play Games with China Over Taiwan

The U.S. President-elect has said the “One China” policy was up for negotiation and dependent on what Beijing does for the U.S. in return

East Asian geopolitics is a tapestry of fictions. Beijing insists Taiwan is part of China, despite the island of 23 million being self-governing for over half-a-century. The constitution of Taiwan — officially called the Republic of China, a legacy of the routed Nationalists (KMT) flight across the Strait in 1949 following China’s civil war — still claims dominion of all of the Chinese mainland and even Mongolia. The U.S. concedes Taiwan is part of China, having broken off diplomatic relations one China policy

with Taipei in 1979, yet is treaty-obliged to sell the island the weapons it uses to protect itself from Beijing.

One can have sympathy for Donald Trump not wanting to partake in such a charade, which is commonly known as the “One China” principle. The U.S. President-elect had the backing of many people in Taiwan when on Dec. 2 he accepted a phone call from its President, Tsai Ing-wen. Owing to “One China,” which was negotiated by an earlier KMT government in Taiwan, it was the first direct contact between the leaders of Taiwan and the U.S for almost four decades. When Beijing cried foul, Trump sent a series of unrepentant tweets, culminating with an interview on Fox on Sunday during which he said “One China” was up for negotiation and dependent on what Beijing does for the U.S. in return.

Read More: ‘Trump Truly Is a Mad Dog’: How Chinese Social Media Melted After the Taiwan Call

“Trump’s taking a more realpolitik approach, saying there are no sacred cows, we won’t be pushed around and everything is on the table,” says Prof. Nick Bisley, an Asia expert at Australia’s La Trobe University.

But Trump should be wary of wielding realpolitik in this land of fictions. Beijing regularly cites the “Taiwan question” as one of its “core interests,” and the topic is toxic even among otherwise politically inert Chinese. On Wednesday, An Fengshan, a spokesman for China’s policy-making Taiwan Affairs Office, said, “peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait will be seriously impacted” if the U.S. wavers on “One China.”

For Taiwan, the “One China” policy is partly a millstone, precluding the island from a seat at the U.N. or from joining potentially lucrative free trade groupings. But conversely, the agreement — otherwise known as the “1992 Consensus” — has allowed peaceful ties to flourish across a previously truculent Strait. Today, tourists and exchange students flock in both directions and 40% of Taiwan’s exports go to the mainland. Taiwan has a lot to gain from official recognition but even more to lose. “In the short term the [Taiwan] government seems to be very excited about [Trump addressing ‘One China’],” says Prof. Tang Shaocheng, an international relations expert at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University. “But the consequences — the reaction from Beijing — is still unpredictable.”

Donald Trump Angers China With Historic Phone Call to Taiwan’s President
Trump went where no U.S. commander-in-chief had gone since diplomatic relations were restored with China in 1979 — by speaking directly to the President of Taiwan, the island-state of 23 million that is essentially an independent country.

Taiwan would bear the brunt of a metastasizing Sino-U.S. relationship, though Trump has never mentioned what the island’s citizens desire during his bating of the Chinese leadership. Instead, the President-elect has treated the case like a business deal, jostling for the smallest advantage, while needling the world’s second largest economy over trade tariffs and alleged currency manipulation. “Trump is trying to get some more bargaining chips to use later with Beijing,” adds Tang. “Taiwan is just a leverage point for Trump.” And Trump’s actions elsewhere are recasting the rules of the game and further imperiling the island’s people.

Read More: Trump’s Doubting of ‘One China’ Has Sparked Both Hope and Fear in Taiwan

The other headline of Trump’s nascent foreign policy is warming ties with Russia. Trump repeatedly praised President Vladmir Putin during his presidential campaign, flying in the face of the international condemnation prompted by Moscow’s 2014 annexing of the Crimea, not to mention its steadfast support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. On Wednesday, Trump named his candidate for Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson, the ExxonMobil chief with a long history of deals with the Kremlin, and who was awarded the Russian Order of Friendship in 2013. The nod raised eyebrows even within Trump’s own party.

“I don’t know what Mr. Tillerson’s relationship with Vladimir Putin was,” Sen. John McCain told Fox News on Saturday. “But I’ll tell you it is a matter of concern to me.”

What exactly Trump hopes to gain from courting Putin is unclear. The real estate mogul may have been elected on promises to put “America first,” but Putin is a Russian nationalist of the deepest dye and unlikely to yield much of consequence to Washington. One theory is that Trump is maneuvering for a “reverse Nixon” strategy: teaming up with Moscow to isolate Beijing, in a mirror of U.S. policy to counter the Soviet Union in the 1970s. However, that is unlikely to bear fruit. According to Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center think-tank, Beijing and Moscow have never been as close as they are today. “I would call them a ‘détente’ state of relations,” says Trenin. “That’s somewhere between a strategic partnership and a full-fledged alliance.”

Read More: China Says Donald Trump’s Suggestion of Closer U.S.-Taiwan Ties Are ‘Out of the Question’

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s seminal One Belt, One Road economic strategy — a rekindling of the iconic land and maritime Silk Road though infrastructure and development projects — is dependent on rosy relations with Russia and particularly Central Asia, which is largely beholden to the Kremlin. Today, Russia is the world’s top oil exporter — accounting for 70% of all national exports — and its top customer is China, which bought 22 million tons in the first half of this year. Squabbles over disputed territory in Central Asia have been solved with surprising prudence and a raft of pipeline and other infrastructure deals have been struck. “Relations are robust and I can only see them getting stronger,” says Trenin.

By contrast, the U.S. has little to offer Russia. But Trump’s fawning of Putin does have an effect. Trump announced Tillerson’s appointment just as Assad’s Russian-backed troops retook Aleppo, displacing thousands and reportedly slaughtering scores of innocents. But Beijing is most acutely aware that the Kremlin suffered few repercussion from its seizing of Crimea, other than economic sanctions it shrugged aside (and Trump could soon lift them at a stoke of his pen.) If Trump wants to put ethics aside and talk realpolitik: What would the U.S. do if China decided to retake Taiwan?

Read More: Donald Trump Details Plan to Rewrite Global Trade Rules

To rephrase: What could it do? The U.S. military is stronger that China’s overall, though a war in China’s coastal waters would be bloody and impossible to win. The Philippines, traditionally America’s staunchest ally, has become antagonistic with Washington and chummy with China since new President Rodrigo Duterte took office. There are also resurgent calls to removed U.S. troops from bases in South Korea and Japan, who both list China as their largest trading partners. Beijing has built islands — dubbed unsinkable aircraft carriers — in the South China Sea, which new satellite images indicate contain significant weaponry. Not to forget that Trump campaigned on drawing down commitments on costly wars overseas.

“Xi is a tough guy and has shown unprecedented tolerance for Trump’s arrogance,” says Prof. Shi Yinhong, director of the Center on American Studies at Beijing’s Renmin University. “But if Trump still wants to mess with China’s core interests after he becomes President, Sino-U.S. ties will suffer the greatest damage since [the resumption of diplomatic relations]. China will not compromise.”

Trump thinks he is being clever by shaking up the status quo in East Asia, but there is a reason why all six preceding U.S. Presidents have firmly stuck to the convenient fiction of “One China.” In a game of true realpolitik when everything is on the table, China knows exactly what it wants — and it also now knows what it can probably get away with.

—With reporting by Zhang Chi / Beijing

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