Taiwan, US need close military ties more than ever

The China Post news staff

Despite repeatedly attacking Chinese trade policies on his campaign trail, U.S. President Donald Trump has now apparently undergone a miraculous transformation in his attitude toward Beijing, following a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping last month. Trump offered praise for Xi, calling him a “terrific person” and saying they had a “good chemistry together.” He also backed away from a campaign pledge to label China a currency manipulator. While Trump denies he has softened his stance on China, it is quite apparent that the U.S. leader is doing his best to please Beijing in order to keep a lid on machinations in the Korean Peninsula.

But while the two powers brokering cordial relations to avert a nuclear crisis is good news for most, it could be a harbinger of doom for Taiwan, which depends on the U.S. diplomatically and defensively against the might of Beijing. In this light, and with the addition of ongoing cross-strait tensions following President Tsai Ing-wen’s inauguration last May, Taiwan needs close military exchanges with the U.S. more than ever

In a move to show Taiwan and the U.S. continue to enjoy cordial military exchanges, a briefing the Ministry of National Defense (MND) sent to lawmakers this Monday said senior U.S. military personnel had made more than 1,000 visits to Taiwan for the purpose of military exchange in 2016. Taiwan military personnel also made more than 900 visits to the U.S. on 170 different projects. The figures being made public by the military is a rare move as it normally keeps Taiwan-U.S. military exchanges a secret, in order to spare Washington any diplomatic headaches that may come its way from Beijing. Taiwan and the U.S. have been closely working with each other based on an agreement reached between both sides in 2002. As part of the deal, an annual conference — U.S.-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference — hosted by the U.S.-Taiwan Business Council since 2002 has been serving as an important platform for dialogue on Taiwan’s national security needs, weapons procurement and defense cooperation with the U.S, with Taiwan’s vice defense minister visiting the U.S. to attend the meeting annually. But this is not enough, given the fact that Trump and Xi reached agreement during the recent summit to establish high-level dialogue and cooperation mechanisms. At this crucial moment, to make sure Taiwan’s interests are not sacrificed in the process, Taiwan needs to push for the U.S .to make good on promises the latter previously made with the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2017. The Act included a section on senior military exchanges with Taiwan — a first for the two countries. While the act was passed under Barrack Obama, it is now the time to ask the Trump administration to honor it so that Taiwan and U.S. can have more direct dialogue on defense as soon as possible, to avoid Taiwan’s freedom becoming a bargaining chip in any horse trading between Beijing and Washington. .