Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Defense Plans for Taiwan Anger China



Defense Plans for Taiwan Anger China


Chinese diplomats are responding angrily to a report by the Tokyo-based Kyodo News Agency that U.S. and Japanese officials intend to draw up plans for joint military responses to a North Korean missile attack on Japan or a Chinese attack on Taiwan.

“China expresses serious concern over this,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao. “Taiwan is an inseparable part of China. Any arrangement or consideration should respect and abide by the principle of one China.”

The Japanese defense liason office in Taipei did not respond by press time.

“The report that Japan and the U.S. are considering joint study for Taiwan and North Korea crises couldn’t be done at a better time,” said Sumihiko Kawamura, deputy director of The Okazaki Institute, Tokyo. “It will be done in line with the statement issued after a ‘two-plus-two’ meeting of the U.S. and Japanese foreign affairs and defense chiefs in February 2005.”

That statement declared that both countries saw a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan situation as a common security objective, which was “the first time the U.S.-Japan alliance directly addressed the Taiwan issue,” he said.

In 2005, officials crafted the “Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation” that required Japan to assist U.S. forces with logistical support, including supplies, transportation, maintenance and medical support. Both sides are preparing for their second round of two-plus-two talks this month, and further agreements and policy papers are expected.

Taiwan Remains Question Mark

According to the report, the United States and Japan will plan for military action triggered by a declaration of independence by Taiwan — an event few expect, given Bejing’s own assurances that it would wage war in response.

But China is increasingly concerned about quasi-political moves and statements that give Taiwan de facto independent status.

“What has kept Beijing up at night are Taiwan political initiatives that it interprets as the functional equivalents of a declaration of independence that change the island’s legal status and thus requiring a forceful response,” said Richard Bush, who directs the Brookings Institution’s Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, and was chairman of the board and managing director of the American Institute of Taiwan from 1997-2002.

One analyst noted that planning for worst-case scenarios hardly means the United States and Japan would intervene militarily. And even if they did, it might be to preserve regional stability rather than to defend Taipei, said Derek Mitchell at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“For instance, even if it seems that Taiwan induced an attack in some way, the alliance might decide to fulfill their stabilizing responsibilities in order to end hostilities and preserve regional peace even as it decides not to defend Taiwan’s political goal of independence,” Mitchell said.

A former U.S. defense official who worked in Taiwan argues that the United States has no obligation to defend Taiwan from a Chinese military attack.

“It’s dangerous to assume the U.S. would intervene, since it’s a critical unknowable if the U.S. has the will or capability to intervene in the event of Chinese use of force,” the former official said. “Without any assurance in writing in the form of a mutual defense treaty, one could prepare for U.S. intervention, and plan for ad hoc coalition operations, all of which has been going on since May 1999.

“The Taiwan Relations Act only calls for ‘maintaining the capability’ to intervene and to consult with Congress,” he said. “It’s not a treaty, and President Bush’s April 2001 statement to ‘help Taiwan defend herself’ is vague – ‘help’ could mean just providing intelligence, minesweeping, emergency supplies, etc.”