另一個有礙美國將來政策走向的問題，出在川普政府在很多重要的高階職位上都還找不到派任人選，當中最嚴重的，莫過於國務院到現在居然還找不到專責處理東亞與太平洋事務的助理國務卿，以及在面對北韓危機的當下居然派不出駐南韓大使。不僅如此，國務卿提勒森（Rex Tillerson）打算大幅精簡國務院人力、刪減31%經費支出的計畫不但從來沒有停過，還打算從政府部門以外引進顧問公司進行國務院的組織再造。根據《外交政策》（Foreign Policy）在七月31日的報導：「來意不善的白宮在刪減（國務院的）預算時毫不手軟，沒什麼淵源的領導人刪除了許多職位跟專案計畫，國務院的氣氛也從來沒有如此低迷過。」
更禍不單行的問題，則是川普政府的幕僚群對於政策走向一直陷入分裂與內鬥的窘境，對中政策就是一個相當明顯的例子。出身自美國投資銀行界的官員像是財政部部長梅努欽（Steve Mnuchin）、國家經濟委員會主席孔恩（Gary Cohn）和副國家安全顧問鮑爾（Dina Powell）都比較傾向維持傳統美、中之間的關係，亦即就整體而言，維持雙邊關係的重要性優於計較零星的利益衝突——雖然這樣的衝突不勝枚舉。梅努欽、孔恩和鮑爾三人之前都曾任職於投資銀行高盛，而高盛其中一個主要的獲利來源就是中國，就連川普的女婿庫希納（Jared Kushner）也屬於這個陣營——他需要仰賴中國買主的青睞好延續家族經營的不動產事業，至於他的太太、川普自己的女兒伊凡卡（Ivanka Trump）所經營的自有品牌中，也是有許多商品是由中國所生產製造的。
相較之下，白宮顧問納瓦羅（Peter Navarro）和甫離職的巴農（Steve Bannon）兩人對中國的態度就強硬了許多，商務部部長羅斯（Wilbur Ross）雖然也是投資銀行業者出身，但是從新聞報導不難看出其在對中貿易議題上也採取較強硬的主張，另外像是國安會亞太資深主任蒲亭杰（Matt Pottinger）基於過去多年擔任記者的工作經驗，也對中國有更深入透徹的認知。最重要的是，主張捍衛台灣的國防部部長馬蒂斯（James Mattis）其態度之強硬，與中國相較也毫不遜色。報導指出，馬蒂斯在六月於新加坡所舉行的「香格里拉對談」（Shangri-La Dialogue）中挑明，儘管他很清楚美國不會更改一中政策，但是卻無礙於幫助台灣完成自我防衛，這一席公開承諾讓北京方面怒不可遏：
美國軍方和情治系統通常是最在意中國對美國利益會造成威脅的兩大單位，自然也是對看好美、中關係發展這種論點最感到憂心忡忡的一群人。以中央情報局局長龐皮歐（Mike Pompeo）在七月26日接受《華盛頓自由燈塔》（Washington Free Beacon）記者葛茨（Bill Gertz）的專訪為例，他直言不諱指出中國就長期而言將會是美國最大的威脅來源：
- 川普政府也授意在南海增加維護「自由航行權」的操練。一艘美軍導彈驅逐艦在五月24日駛進中國於南沙群島美濟礁（Mischief Reef）所構築人工島礁的12海浬內，七月2日，另一艘美軍導彈驅逐艦也在台、中、越三方都宣稱擁有主權的中建島（Triton Island）12海浬內，航行穿越西沙群島，這是川普就任以來第二次類似的操練。八月10日，又一艘美軍驅逐艦在美濟礁的12海浬內航行經過，這是美軍維護「自由航行權」的第三次操練
- 六位美國眾議院議員在五月4日提出了《台灣旅遊法》（Taiwan Travel Act）修正先前兩項國會決議，旨在促進更多不論層級的台、美官員互訪，而不是予以重重限制
- 六月28日，參議院軍事委員會（Senate Armed Services Committee）通過一項決議，同意恢復美軍軍艦前往台灣港口停泊訪問。這是美國自1979年採行一個中國政策以後首次通過類似的提案，該決議亦要求五角大廈提出協助台灣自主發展水面下軍事力量的計畫，並建議要和台北加強戰略合作的關係
- 接下來在七月24日，參議員柯頓（Cotton）和賈德納（Gardner）提出《台灣安全法案》（Taiwan Security Act），除了要求雙方高階軍事與外交官員進行交流、每年與台灣進行戰略對話外，還要邀請台灣參加美國海、空軍的演習，以及開放台、美兩國的港口進行軍艦互訪
- 眾議院外交委員會亞太小組主席約霍（Ted Yoho）在七月24日提出一項法案，意欲協助台灣取得世界衛生組織完整的會員資格。這項法案將要求國務院致力於保障台灣參與世界衛生組織的年度大會，並支持台灣繼續參與其他世界衛生組織的活動
The Trump Administration’s Asian Security Strategy: Incoherent Policies and an Uncertain Future
William A. Stanton
Professor, International College National Taiwan University
The Trump Administration will reportedly release this fall a series of foreign policy position papers, including an overall National Security Strategy. Nonetheless, the contradictions and incoherence that have marked President Trump’s foreign policies thus far unfortunately seem likely to continue.
PRESIDENT TRUMP’S FLAWS MAKE PREDICTIONS DIFFICULT
Key reasons for the difficulties we face in assessing the direction of Trump’s policies toward Asia include: Trump’s narcissistic, inattentive, and mercurial temperament; his ignorance of the most fundamental facts of history, U.S. policy, and world politics; his apparent inability and unwillingness to study, listen, and learn; and his woefully limited vision of the world reflecting inherited wealth and a life largely spent selling real estate, promoting his name as a brand, running beauty pageants, and hosting a TV game show.
There are daily examples in Trump’s foreign policy of these inadequacies. In March Trump told a bemused German Chancellor Merkel that German trade negotiators had done a much better job than U.S. counterparts, a claim belied by the fact that the United States and Germany never negotiated a trade agreement. He also falsely claimed that Germany owed the United States “vast sums of money.” In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in April, Trump claimed that Korea “actually used to be part of China” a claim that is not true even though, as Trump said, Xi Jinping told him so. In May Trump publicly declared that he would be “honored” to meet the North Korean dictator Kim Jung-un, and offered a visit to the White House to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who is accused of leading an anti-drug campaign that has murdered thousands of alleged drug dealers.
This oblivious disregard for fact, or at least inattention to details, appears to have infected the White House at large. In a July statement, the White House called Xi Jinping the President of the “Republic of China” instead of the People’s Republic of China. The White House also incorrectly described Shinzo Abe as the President of Japan, rather than Prime Minister, and called the Canadian Prime Minister of Canada “Joe” rather than Justin Trudeau.
Trump’s invitations to Kim and Duterte were symptomatic of another one of the most troubling aspects of Trump’s foreign policy orientation — his frequent criticism of allies, friends, and neighbors and, in contrast, his apparent fondness for authoritarian leaders, especially Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, who lead countries and formulate policies that threaten U.S. interests.
We also need to contend with Trump’s distortions of facts and his outright lies. As of August 25, the Washington Post found that as of 218 days since taking office President Trump had made 1,094 false or misleading claims — an average of 5 false claims per day.
The New York Times similarly published on July 21 an updated list of 116 lies Trump had told since taking office. Key falsehoods concerning foreign policy cited by the Times included:
- “The fake media goes, ‘Donald Trump changed his stance on China.’ I haven’t changed my stance.” (In fact, he did.)
- When they talk about currency manipulation, and I did say I would call China, if they were, a currency manipulator, early in my tenure. And then I get there. Number one, they — as soon as I got elected, they stopped.” (China in fact stopped in 2014.)
- “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this [Climate Change] agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020.” (The agreement does not, in fact, allow or disallow building coal plants.)
- “The trade deficit with Mexico is close to $70 billion, even with Canada it’s a $17 billion trade deficit with Canada.” (The U.S. had an $8.1 billion trade surplus, not deficit, with Canada in 2016 and the U.S trade deficit in goods with Mexico was $64.4 billion.)
- “You know we’ve gotten billions of dollars more in NATO than we’re getting. All because of me.” (The U.S negotiated a deal increasing NATO contributions in 2014.)
TRUMP ADMINISTRATION STILL UNDERSTAFFED AND DIVIDED
Another problem in determining future U.S. policies is the continuing absence of a large number of personnel in key senior positions. Nowhere is this worse than in the State Department where there is still no Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs and no Ambassador to South Korea at a time when we are facing a crisis over North Korea. In addition, Secretary Tillerson continues his plans to make drastic cuts in State Department personnel and a proposed 31 percent reduction in funding, and has invited an outside business consultancy to entirely reorganize the Department. As reported by Foreign Policy on July 31, “A hostile White House is slashing its [the State Department’s]budget, the rank and file are cut off from a detached leader, and morale has plunged to historic lows.”
Just as important, however, are the continuing divisions and infighting among Trump’s advisors over policy issues. China is a prime example. It is evident that American investment bankers like Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, and Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell have favored maintaining the traditional U.S. relationship with China in which the overall relationship outweighs any individual conflicts of interest, of which there are many. Mnuchin, Cohn, and Powell all previously worked for investment bank Goldman Sachs, one of whose principal sources of profits has been China. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — whose family real estate business continues to pursue sales to PRC customers – belongs in this group as well, as does his wife and Trump’s daughter Ivanka, many of whose brand-name products are manufactured in China.
In contrast, White House Advisors Peter Navarro and Steve Bannon have taken a much harder line toward China. In addition, Senior NSC Advisor for Asia Matt Pottinger certainly has a clear-eyed understanding of China based on his years of experience working there as a journalist. Most important, Secretary of Defense Mattis has staked out strong positions on Taiwan as well as China. At the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in June Secretary Mattis reportedly outraged Beijing with an explicit public commitment to help Taiwan defend itself even while noting that the U.S remained committed to its one-China policy:
“The Department of Defense remains steadfastly committed to working with Taiwan and with its democratic government to provide it the defense articles necessary, consistent with the obligations set out in our Taiwan Relations Act. Because we stand for the peaceful resolution of any issues in a manner acceptable to people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.”
PLA representatives at the meeting predictably objected to Mattis’ statement, voiced objections to any U.S. arm sales to Taiwan, and to his failure to cite the Three Joint Communiqués.
Also arousing Beijing’s ire were Mattis’ comments on the South China Sea:
“The scope and effect of China’s construction activities in the South China Sea differ from those in other countries in several key ways. This includes the nature of its militarization, China’s disregard for international law, its contempt for other nations’ interests, and its efforts to dismiss non-adversarial resolution of issues.
“We oppose countries militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law. We cannot and will not accept unilateral coercive changes to the status quo. We will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and demonstrate resolve through operational presence in the South China Sea and beyond. Our operations throughout the region are an expression of our willingness to defend both our interests and the freedoms enshrined in international law.”
In general, it is the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence communities that are most concerned about the threats China poses to U.S. interests, and who are therefore most wary of upbeat assessments about the future of U.S. – China relations. In a July 26 interview with Bill Gertz for the Washington Free Beacon, for example, CIA Director Mike Pompeo pointed to China as the greatest long-term threat to the United States:
“I think China has the capacity to present the greatest rivalry to American of any [country]…over the medium and long term. [The rapid build-up of the Chinese military is] very much focused on countering U.S. power projection. So you see that whether it’s going on in the South China Sea or East China Sea, the work they’re doing in other parts of the world….If you look at them, they are probably trying either to steal our stuff or make sure they can defeat it. And most often both. ….Look, we have other relationships, we have commercial relationships with the Chinese as well. But I think it’s very clear when they think about their place in the world, they measure their success in placing themselves in the world where they want to be vis-à-vis the United States and not as against anyone else.
“But it is also the case that the Chinese have moved to a place where they, I think, see themselves as a rival superpower and so intend to conduct their version of espionage programs in a way that reflects their superpower status. And so, yeah, we’ve seen it, some of it comes out of 3PLA; and some of it comes from more un-attributable places. But they are working it very, very hard….They have as part of their mission to reduce the relative power of the United States vis-à-vis their own country. And one of the ways they do that is through these active measures, these spying efforts.”
In an earlier July interview with The Washington Free Beacon’s editor Bill Gwertz, controversial exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui(郭文貴), who was part of the PRC elite and reportedly well connected to the PRC intelligence services, publicly made claims about PRC spying against the United States that can only have reinforced the CIA Director’s view of the PRC threat. Guo asserted that over the past 50 years Beijing had developed spy networks in the United States that included up to 25,000 Chinese intelligence officers and more than 15,000 recruited American agents who had increased offensive spying activities since 2012. While the figures may be exaggerated, no one doubts the PRC espionage threat to the United States.
TRUMP’S ERRATIC APPROACH TO THE PRC AND TAIWAN
Despite these strong concerns of U.S. military and intelligence leaders that are also widely shared by the U.S. Congress, President Trump has pursued a generally more favorable but also erratic approach to China. Following frequent, strong criticism of China when he was a candidate and his cordial December 2, 2016 phone conversation with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen, Trump quickly reverted to more traditional U.S. policy lines toward both the PRC and Taiwan. Trump tweeted on December 11, “I don’t know why we have to be bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China…” — raising concerns Taiwan might merely be a bargaining chip.
In the course of his confirmation hearing, however, Secretary Tillerson specifically reassured Taiwan that, “The people of Taiwan are friends of the United States and should not be treated as a bargaining chip. The U.S. commitment to Taiwan is both a legal commitment and a moral imperative.” Significantly, he also reaffirmed the “Six Assurances,” one of which guarantees there will be no change in the U.S. position on Taiwan’s sovereignty.
Nonetheless, at President Trump’s April 6-7 meeting with PRC leader Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago, Trump erroneously seemed to think he and Xi had reached a meeting of minds, that somehow Xi would bring North Korea to heel, and that China would take steps to reduce its huge trade surplus with the United States. Despite getting nothing concrete from Xi, Trump was effusive in praising his imagined friendship with the PRC’s ruler: “We have a great chemistry together. We like each other. I like him a lot. I think his wife is terrific.” While admitting that “so far I have gotten nothing, absolutely nothing,” he added, “But we have developed a friendship – I can see that – and I think in the long term we’re going to have a very, very great relationship and I look very much forward to it.”
Despite the absence of any progress on North Korea, President Trump continued to praise Xi Jinping. Only hours after jailed Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo died on July 13, Trump — in a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris — called Xi a friend and a great leader he respects: “He’s a very talented man. I think he’s a very good man. He loves China, I can tell you. He loves China. He wants to do what’s right for China.”
Foregoing his earlier condemnations of China’s trade policies, Trump did reach an agreement with Xi at Mar-a-Lago for a 100-day effort to resolve bilateral trade differences before the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue. When the meeting convened on July 19, the Chinese quickly deflated Trump’s hopes. China refused to give the U.S. numerical benchmarks for reducing its trade surplus and its steel overcapacity, rejected tariff reductions on U.S autos and greater access to China’s financial markets, and refused to loosen China’s data localization requirements.
Premier Wang Yang, who led the PRC delegation, criticized what he called “outdated U.S. regulations on export controls” which he said undermined U.S. exports of “advanced technologies, key equipment and critical parts to China.” This was of course a familiar Chinese charge, tantamount to an appeal for more advanced technology it could then steal, given China’s well-earned record as the greatest violator of Intellectual Property Rights in the world. (On August 12, the Trump administration announced it would launch an investigation into Chinese intellectual-property violations.) Overall, it was a lesson for the Trump Administration in what foreigners in Beijing in the late 1980s called “friendship business”: “You give the Chinese money and technology, and they give you their friendship.”
After North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 28 that landed in Japan’s maritime Exclusive Economic Zone, President Trump finally seemed to have realized that his flattery of Xi and words of friendship had accomplished nothing. In tweets on July 30, Trump fumed:
“I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!”
PRC ALSO UNHAPPY WITH THE U.S. POLICIES…
For its part, China had its own reasons for dissatisfaction with the United States:
- Washington announced on June 29 arms sales to Taiwan worth USD1.42 billion.
- The same day, Washington also announced a series of sanctions against Chinese individuals and entities doing business with North Korea, including a Chinese shipping company and China’s Bank of Dandong which the U.S. cited as a conduit for illicit North Korean financial activity.
- The Trump Administration also approved increased “freedom of navigation” (FON) exercises in the South China Sea. On May 24, a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer sailed within12 nautical miles of a Chinese controlled artificial island in the Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands. On July 2, in the second such exercise since Trump took office, another U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer sailed through the Paracel Islands within 12 miles of the disputed Triton Island, an island claimed by China, Vietnam, and Taiwan. In a third FON exercise, on August 10 a U.S. destroyer again sailed within 12 miles of Mischief Reef.
.. AND CONTINUING U.S. CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT FOR TAIWAN
China has also expressed anger over continuing U.S. Congressional efforts to strengthen relations between Taiwan and the United States. While unlikely to be take effect, the following draft legislation is symptomatic of continuing U.S. Congressional support for Taiwan and disaffection from China:
- On May 4, six U.S. Senators introduced the Taiwan Travel Act, a reiteration of two earlier Congressional bills, which calls for more visits between officials of Taiwan and the United States at all levels instead of restrictions on such visits.
- On June 28 the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee approved a bill calling for the resumption of port visits to Taiwan by the U.S. Navy for the first time since the United States adopted its one-China policy in 1979. The bill also directs the Pentagon to help Taiwan develop an indigenous undersea warfare program and recommends strengthened strategic cooperation with Taipei.
- Subsequently, on July 24 Senators Cotton and Gardner introduced the Taiwan Security Act which would mandate senior military and diplomatic exchanges, an annual strategic dialogue with Taiwan, Taiwan’s participation in U.S. naval and air force exercises, U.S. port visits to Taiwan, and Taiwan port visits to the United States.
- On July 24 Representative Ted Yoho, chairman of the U.S. House Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee, introduced a bill to help Taiwan become a full member of the World Health Organization (WHO). Yoho’s bill would require that the Start Department focus on ensuring Taiwan’s participation in the Annual World Health Assembly and supporting Taiwan’s continued participation in other WHO activities.
On balance, therefore, after all of Trump’s both negative, positive, and again negative rhetoric about China, U.S. policies toward the PRC and Taiwan have not radically changed, but overall U.S. attitudes toward China continue to get tougher in the face of continuing differences over North Korea, the South China Sea, Taiwan, and trade. Meanwhile, U.S. attitudes toward Taiwan –especially in Congress — remain positive. Despite his strong criticism of NATO and our alliances with Japan and Tokyo, President Trump has found it necessary to reaffirm these alliances. The North Korean problem has in fact served to strengthen U.S. ties with Japan and Korea. And despite Trump’s seeming infatuation with both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping and his attempts to improve relations with both Russia and China, overall U.S. relations with these key adversaries are continue to grow worse.
A similar stiffening of the U.S. stance toward China was evident over the course of President Obama’s two terms. This shift was manifest in the U.S. “pivot” or rebalancing toward Asia first announced by Secretary of State Clinton in an article in Foreign Policy in October 2011, as well as in the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement which was signed on February 4, 2016.
Despite the sound and fury of Trump’s campaign pledges, perhaps the most consequential Trump policy change thus far has been his withdrawal of U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an ill-considered move which has reduced both the strategic and economic leverage of the United States in Asia. Trump’s withdrawal from the Climate Agreement might also be cited, but it remains unclear to what extent it will affect the overall commitment of U.S. businesses, state and local governments, and the American public in general to measures to improve the environment and reduce America’s carbon footprint.
U.S. STILL TOO FOCUSED ON MIDDLE EAST AND TERRORISM
A more subtle shift, however, may be noted in Trump’s departure from President Obama’s focus on the importance of Asia to America’s future, and Obama’s concomitant desire to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and to avoid further entanglement In Syria and the Middle East in general. Trump has in fact put more U.S. troops into the Middle East and Afghanistan, although, according to media reports, Trump was not convinced that yet more U.S troops in Afghanistan after 16 years there would solve any of that country’ s problems.
Attention to Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan appears to reflect an objectively unjustified preoccupation with terrorism by both Trump and his many senior officials who served with the U.S. military in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Nonetheless, given the growing energy independence of the U.S. because of fracking, the economic and strategic importance of the Middle East is fast diminishing. The CNN chart below shows in striking fashion that, with the exception of 9/11 when nearly 3000 people were killed, domestic gun violence remains a far greater threat than terrorism to American citizens.
Absent the North Korean bone in America’s throat, it is not clear that President Trump would have paid nearly as much attention to Asia, or that U.S. relations with Japan and Korea would not have worsened over trade deficits and a perceived imbalance in military burden-sharing. Trump’s decision to try to get China to solve the North Korean nuclear problem demonstrated a woeful ignorance of intensive U.S. diplomatic efforts extending back to President Clinton. His decision to withdraw from the TPP showed a similar ignorance of the trade advantages of the deal for the United States and the need to embrace more closely Asian countries that both fear and are economically dependent on China.
As of this writing, it is therefore difficult to perceive a coherent Trump policy toward Asia. Aside from slogans like “American First,” we have only his tweeted comments often expressing his displeasure. What is lacking is a positive agenda and clear directions. Nonetheless, I would offer a few thoughts about the future we face in Asia whatever Trump may do.
NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR PROBLEM WILL PERSIST
The 6th North Korean nuclear test, which occurred on September 3 and was reportedly an even more deadly hydrogen bomb, was another blatant signal that the North Korean proliferation problem will continue to fester. Still, it would serve no one’s interests, including North Korea’s, for a conflict to erupt. Given, however, the unpredictability of Kim Jung-un and also of President Trump’s tweets and rhetorical outbursts, the Korean Peninsula will remain volatile.
As a result, South Korea and Japan will be ever more willing to install and develop more sophisticated weapon systems. For example, in addition to agreeing to install a THAAD missile defense system, South Korean officials announced on July 29 that they would begin talks with the Trump Administration about further strengthening their ballistic missile systems. In 1979 Korea agreed to U.S ballistic missile guidelines, limiting the range of Korean missiles 180 km, but this range was increased in 2001 to 300 km, and in 2012 to 800 km. South Korea now wants another upgrade. In addition, in response to Pyongyang’s September 3 nuclear test, Seoul signaled it was ready to install more THAAD missile defense systems.
Moreover, the South Korean public is far more willing than the Japanese to consider developing their own nuclear weapons. A September 2016 Gallup Korea poll showed that 58 percent of responding South Koreans supported the development of nuclear weapons, and that was well before the latest DPRK tests of long-range and other missiles and nuclear devices. In contrast, a 2016 Genron poll found only 5 percent of Japanese supported their nation possessing nuclear arms. Still, Japan is the only country Washington has allowed to reprocess nuclear fuel from the United States, effectively allowing Japan to acquire the technology it would need to develop nuclear weapons if it decided to do so. Although the short- and medium-term Japanese political environment make this very unlikely, if it were to happen over the longer term, China’s long support for North Korea could wind up leading to its own worst nightmare.
U.S. – CHINA RELATIONS WILL CONTINUE ON A DOWNWARD PATH
It is likely that U.S.-China relationship will continue to fray. The PRC’s continuing reluctance to put sufficient pressure on North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile programs has already prompted calls from many in Washington for even more sanctions against Chinese entities doing business with North Korea. If the August 5 Security Council resolution sanctioning North Korea will cost Pyongyang an estimated one third of its annual export revenue, assuming China fully implements them (something it has not done in the past), it makes sense for the United States to impose even tougher sanctions on other PRC entities doing business with North Korea.
Thus it was no surprise on August 22 that the U.S. Treasury Department imposed further sanctions on 10 Chinese (as well as Russian) firms and 6 individuals who had conducted business with North Korea that advanced Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons programs. As usual, China objected to these “unilateral” sanctions although China has itself never hesitated to economically punish other countries who aroused Beijing’s ire. Beijing blocked trade with some South Korean companies because of the deployment of the U.S. THAAD missile defense system in South Korea. It punished Norway for years after Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize, and China greatly reduced the number of Chinese tourists visiting Taiwan following the election of President Tsai Ing-Wen. Although China has threatened that these U.S. measures will damage bilateral relations, it is something Washington should have done long ago.
Meanwhile, China’s aggressive maritime measures in the South and East China Seas, its huge trade surpluses with the United States, and its IPR violations and unwillingness to trade and invest on an equitable basis, have also reinforced the growing sentiment in the United States that the overall bilateral relationship with China is out of whack and does not serve U.S. interests.
Yet China’s own domestic political and economic concerns will limit PRC flexibility and interest in accommodating those U.S. interests. Although Xi Jinping is very likely to emerge from the 19th Party Congress as China’s paramount leader, we should not forget he faces huge social and political challenges as well as its enormous economic problems, especially if trade disputes with the United States lead to a significant drop in Chinese exports.
Any deterioration in U.S. relations with China, however, does not necessarily bode well for Taiwan. Since the election of President Tsai Ing-Wen, China has already taken numerous diplomatic, military, and other steps to pressure Taiwan. Problems in dealing with the United States could cause China to increase even more its measures against Taiwan. Moreover, U.S. economic sanctions against the PRC could have unintended negative consequences for Taiwan’s economy.
U.S. AND OTHERS MUST SUPPORT TAIWAN
At the same time, therefore, the United States should have no choice but to increase its support for Taiwan, through arms, trade, and diplomacy. The more unstable East Asia is, the more the United States should value Taiwan’s critical geostrategic importance. Moreover, the foundation of U.S ties to Taiwan, unlike our relationship with the China, is that the United States and Taiwan share common values as well as common interests. It is my strongly held view that the United States must help ensure the continuing viability of Taiwan as a democracy if that is the will of the Taiwanese people. Therefore, it was especially good news to hear Washington’s announcement on June 29 of arms sales to Taiwan worth USD1.42 billion, the first such sale to Taiwan under the Trump Administration.
Unfortunately, on the trade front, the late June visit to Washington of an American Chamber of Commerce delegation to Washington was not so encouraging. On the positive side, the delegation found continuing “widespread bipartisan support” for Taiwan among members of Congress, “often marked by recognition of the democratic values and support for human rights” that Taiwan shares with the United States. In contrast, however, Trump Administration officials stressed that Taiwan should expect “little progress… in expanding bilateral economic ties unless Taiwan acts decisively to shave” its trade surplus with the United States “and tackle major outstanding trade issues,” including the import of U.S. beef and pork. The news that Trump was again thinking of withdrawing from the U.S. – Korea free trade agreement, despite the North Korean hydrogen bomb test on September 3, could also be seen as a discouraging signal on trade to Taiwan.
It is increasingly important therefore that other democratic countries like Australia, India, Japan and Korea also find the political will to give greater support to Taiwan, which is increasingly isolated and pressured by China. Now that the Trump Administration, in contrast to the threats of Candidate Trump, has reaffirmed the importance of our alliances with Japan and South Korea, both allies also need to consider further the strategic implications for them of a Taiwan that is no longer sovereign over its own territory. While it appears that Prime Minister Abe’s government has already moved [delete “somewhat”]in this direction, it is less clear that Seoul is giving sufficient attention to Taiwan’s regional Importance.
…BUT TAIWAN ALSO NEEDS TO DO MORE TO DEFEND ITSELF
Meanwhile, it is also essential that Taiwan continue its own efforts to strengthen its defense forces, build its economy, diversify its trade, and implement much needed social and educational reforms.
Taiwan certainly needs to do more to improve its bilateral trade with the United States. The American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, which strongly supports U.S. – Taiwan relations, reported in its 2017 White Paper, that out of 80 bilateral issues it had singled out for resolution in 2016, Taiwan had fully resolved none of them, and significant progress had been made on only 8 issues.
Even more critically important is the need for Taiwan to do much more to strengthen its security. As an authoritative senior U.S. official told a Taipei Forum delegation in Washington in early June, Taiwan’s security in the past “had depended on China’s self-restraint and possible U.S. involvement.” While the official said the United States continued to support Taiwan’s security, it was unclear what the situation might be like in the next four or eight years, especially absent more Taiwan efforts to strengthen its own security.
The senior official also observed that Taiwan’s decision to move to an all-volunteer personnel system for its armed forces was simply wrong. It had reduced Taiwan’s military strength and capacity to mobilize. It was also worrisome because, unlike Israel or even Switzerland, Taiwan lacks a strong and combat-ready reserve defense force. Moreover, contrary to the repeated claims of former President Ma Ying-Jeou, in the face of repeated U.S. advice to the contrary, an all-volunteer force is more, not less expensive. Finally, Taiwan’s security policy needs to demonstrate to Washington its determination to defend Taiwan if it wants the support of U.S. public opinion in the event of an armed conflict.
It is therefore critical that Taiwan increase its defense budget, review and revise personnel requirements of its defense and reserve forces, and continue to adopt more severe laws, regulations, and measures to counter PRC espionage and cyber-attacks.
Four years ago, in the fall of 2017, only a few months after retiring from the U.S. Foreign Service and stepping down as Director of the American Institute in Taiwan, I addressed this forum, the Taiwan National Security Institute, on the subject of “National Security and Taiwan’s Future.” I spoke then, and again now, as a strong friend of Taiwan who cares deeply about its future. At that time, I said “I also worry a great deal about Taiwan. I worry because I sometimes think the Taiwanese people do not worry enough.” That concern of mine remains to this day.
Then as now, I also firmly believe that sufficient self-defense forms the foundation from which Taiwan can most confidently manage relations with Beijing, and thereby also contribute to both cross-Strait and regional stability. It is also the foundation for the continuing progress and prosperity of Taiwan as a democratic country. As in the past, so too in the future, Taiwan’s fate remains foremost in the hands of the Taiwanese people.