Will Taiwan be the Next Military Crisis?
Last week Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that there will be further meetings between US and Taiwanese officials. US ambassador to the United Nations Kelly craft recently met with Taiwanese government officials to discuss security. This enrages China who believes that Taiwan is part of their country. In 1949, Chiang Kai-shek and his anticommunist forces were defeated and they fled to the island Taiwan, which is 100 miles away from mainland China. In the early 1970s under Henry Kissinger, the U.S. agreed to recognize only China but left an open-ended “strategic ambiguity” policy. This suggests that the US may go to war over a Chinese invasion of Taiwan but does not guarantee it like Article 5 of NATO.
It can never be ruled out for sure that China would invade Taiwan. China has occupied artificial islands in the vicinity and put heavy amounts of military weaponry on them. 20 years ago, the Chinese government said that it had no desire to occupy Taiwan using military forces. At that time both the Taiwanese and the Japanese were content given that there was a low risk of all-out war in the restaurant in the area around their countries. Given the humongous size of the Chinese population compared to the US, it is not certain which country would win in the event of a war.
A Chinese military victory resulting in its control of Taiwan, could be catastrophic for the US and its Pacific allies. Not only would this destroy democracy in Taiwan, but it would threaten Tokyo because China would now be controlling many of the shipping lanes and sea routes that Japan needs for its survival. In addition, other US allies in the area like India and Vietnam would be concerned that the US may not come to their defense either in the event of a Chinese attack. Taiwan has the world’s most advanced semiconductor industry and if China occupies the island, they would quickly achieve economic and technological supremacy.
From an American foreign-policy perspective, ensuring the defense of Taiwan is challenging, but not impossible. The main challenge is the cost of the military forces that the US would need to deploy in Asia. The only effective way to shore up confidence in the US defense of democracy in the Pacific is stationing more troops in our ally’s nations. While we already have many troops in South Korea and Japan, there needs to be more military integration with India and Vietnam. The Philippines is crucial in the defense of the Pacific from China. In recent decades this has been hard as government officials and leaders in Vietnam seem to obsess about when US previously colonized the island nation, over 100 years ago. The Philippines should realize that this time is about defense and military success in preventing China from threatening the Philippines which it almost certainly would if given the chance. Besides the Philippines, this strategy requires also sending troops and weaponry the smaller island countries including New Zealand, Nauru, Micronesia and various other countries in the Pacific.
Critics say that an increase in the US military presence in the Pacific could antagonize China and make war likely. However, the presence of the US military in these countries should be a deterrent given that it would make it far more costly for China to initiate a war. With large amounts of arms sales and the presence of US troops, it would make it almost impossible for China to win. A final piece of the U.S. foreign policy towards Taiwan should be a new military treaty pledging US military support in the event of a Chinese invasion. This might not be enough, yet a treaty equivalent to NATO’s article 5 is the best option right now.