Sunday, October 4, 2009

Report Has Recommends for China-Taiwan CBMs

Defense News


Report Has Recommends for China-Taiwan CBMs

By Wendell Minnick

Taipei - Cross-strait confidence-building measures (CBM) are the subject of a new report issued in September and getting wide attention in Taiwan's defense community.

Produced jointly by the Pacific Forum and the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), co-authored by Bonnier Glaser and Brad Glosserman, "China-Taiwan CBMs" reviews the complicated issues confronting China-Taiwan CBMs.

Earlier this year, the Beijing-friendly Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) swept legislative and presidential elections. The elections were a humiliating defeat for the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, which controlled the presidency since 2000.

Since President Ma Ying-jeou was sworn into office in May, his administration has been advocating peaceful coexistence with China, including a potential peace accord and the creation of CBMs. There have been accusations that Ma is pushing Taiwan towards a "Finlandization" by China and that CBMs and a peace accord would be a de facto surrender.

However, the issues are far more complex and frustrating as the report struggles with a number of recommendations for CBMs.

The report suggests the U.S. "dispel suspicions in both Taipei and Beijing" that cross-strait reconciliation would harm U.S. interests. U.S. arms sales and military cooperation with Taiwan should be "made in the context of U.S. interests in securing long-term peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait."

For China, the report recommends the military "consider near-term reduction in deployments of missiles" aimed at Taiwan and to "initiate cross-strait military-to-military exchanges to explore agreements in the security field." The report also states China should take a "long-term perspective toward U.S. arms sales to and security cooperation with Taiwan."

Taiwan should continue to engage China with expanded contacts and building trust, but most of these exchanges since Ma won the election have been initiated by Taiwan, not China.

Despite high hopes of CBMs in Taiwan and the United States, there are quite different expectations in China, which links CBMs with eventual unification. Despite political linkages made by the Chinese to CBMs, the report said both Chinese and Taiwanese sources agreed a military hotline between defense ministers would be "useful." One Chinese military official suggested the negotiation of a cross-strait maritime safety agreement as a long-term goal.

However, China is hesitant to adhere to transparency and verification requirements needed for successful CBMs. China is unlikely to identify the types and numbers of missiles aimed at Taiwan, a necessary step to any agreement to reduce the reportedly 1,300 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. Instead, according to the report, China has raised concerns over Taiwan's air defense missiles based on the outer islands and the planned production of the Hsiung Feng 2E land attack cruise missile, which are largely a reaction to the military threat posed by China.

A declaration of China's intent not to use force against Taiwan, conditional on Taiwan agreeing not to declare de jure independence, is unlikely unless the two sides have "ended the state of hostility."

Chinese officials suggested three conditions necessary before CBMs were possible: downgrading military alert levels, downsizing military deployments and joint seminars of military think tanks.

"Although some academic/scholarly exchange, such as an exchange on Sun Zi's Art of War, can be made through proxy institutes between the two militaries at the beginning, fundamental political differences, or to be more specific, sovereignty issues, have to be dealt with in the end if both sides attempt to reach some written CBMs agreement," said Arthur Ding, a military affairs specialist at the National Chengchi University's Institute of International Relations.

Glaser agrees that China's major concern is Taiwan independence and not being attacked, whereas Taiwan is simply worried of being attacked.

"So CBMs will have to structured to address these asymmetries and that will be challenging," Glaser said.

Lin Chong-Pin, former Taiwan deputy minister of defense and now the president of the Taipei-based Foundation on International and Cross-Strait Studies, said Beijing more than Taipei "needs the lion's share of Washington's persuasion endeavor.

"The cross-strait situation is certainly not between two equal powers that can destroy each other many times over," Lin said. "It is an unequal situation where Taiwan needs assurance of peace much more than China."

China has not reached the "judgment that it is in China's interests to make Taiwan feel more secure," Glaser said.

Traditionally, making Taiwan feel insecure has been an important objective. "So progress in this area is still premature," she said. "But it is not too early to do research and planning. Both sides should be thinking about their respective priorities in CBMs, how they should be sequenced, and what objectives they should serve."