Time for US to stop arms sales

Updated: 2011-09-19 08:04

By Tao Wenzhao (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

After decades of improved ties, Washington should change its mindset and abandon the outdated Taiwan Relations Act

The White House is once again pressing ahead with a plan to sell arms to Taiwan.

The package, which will undermine China's core national interests and Sino-US relations if it is realized, serves as a fresh reminder to China that it should by no means be caught off guard over the Taiwan question and in its ties with Washington.

The Taiwan question has been the most important and sensitive issue in Sino-US relations since the normalization of diplomatic ties on Jan 1, 1979. It dominates other topics in the three communiqus signed between China and the US as the political foundation of their relations.

The Taiwan question concerns China's sovereignty, territorial integrity and its core interests. Chinese leaders reaffirmed such a stance in their meetings with US Vice-President Joe Biden during his visit last month.

US arms sales to the island have proven to be a wellspring of conflict between China and the US. Washington cites its Taiwan Relations Act, in which it made security commitments to the island, to justify the weapons sales. China insists that the so-called domestic legislation has essentially constituted a serous interference in its internal affairs from the very beginning. The White House also defends the deals by saying they will help the island improve its defense capability in the face of the mainland's growing military power and help the US maintain the delicate equilibrium it has done its utmost to strike on both sides of the Taiwan Straits.

It is China's stance that the sales of advanced weapons to Taiwan over recent decades have been in serious violation of the spirit of the August 17 Communique signed between China and the US in 1982 in which the US made a commitment that it will gradually reduce the arms sales until they are completely halted. The sales should thus be stopped.

It is a mainstream viewpoint that the US holds three purposes regarding Taiwan: gaining for itself economic interests, supporting the island's regime and keeping its commitments to allies.

Daniel Blumenthal, former vice-chairman of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, and Randall Schriver, former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs, said it is of strategic significance to Washington to maintain the current "no independence and no reunion" status quo. Ahead of the island's elections in 2008, the two cooked up a report stressing Taiwan's strategic significances to the US. In a new report they co-authored not long ago, the two intentionally exaggerated the mainland's threat to Taiwan, coercing other Asian nations into mobilizing their strength to work together with Washington to stop China's peaceful reunification.

The US' biggest misgivings stem from its uncertainty about how China will use its power if it becomes strong enough. Washington worries that an emerging China will pose a challenge to its established dominance in East Asia and the world as whole. It is thus in the best interests of Washington, in the eyes of some in the US, for it to play the Taiwan card and maintain a lasting separatist status quo.

It obviously contradicts the current trend of Sino-US relations and the cross-Straits situation for the US to continue selling weapons to the island according to the so-called Taiwan Relations Act even 32 years after the normalization of ties with China.

Cross-Straits ties have realized a historical improvement and proceeded on a road of peaceful development since May 2008. The establishment of a regular meeting mechanism and a series of deals signed between both sides, especially the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreements signed in October last year, have laid down a solid, long-term foundation for cross-Straits economic and trade ties.

In joint statements issued between China and the US in November 2009 and January this year, Washington expressed its support for the peaceful development of cross-Straits ties and said it expects both sides of the Straits to strengthen dialogue and interaction in economic, political and other realms and set up a more active and stable relationship. Then, why does the US still try to push for the weapons sales?

Sino-US relations have managed to advance over the past 32 years despite some setbacks. With the expansion of bilateral cooperation and common interests, China and the US have become increasingly interdependent on each other.

The fragility of mutual trust between China and the US remains a big issue. The Taiwan Relation Act and US arms sales to Taiwan have served as the main reason for Beijing's lack of a strategic trust in Washington.

It is hoped that the development of Sino-US relations and cross-Straits ties will help more people in the White House realize that US arms sales to Taiwan will bring Washington more losses than achievements and that it is time for the US to abrogate the Taiwan Relations Act.

The author is a senior research scholar with the Center for US-China Relations at Tsinghua University.

(China Daily 09/19/2011 page8)