Cross-strait relations entering sensitive phase: US policy group

02-May-2019 Intellasia | Focus Taiwan | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Cross-Taiwan Strait relations are entering a sensitive phase and careful management by Taiwan, China and the United States will be needed to navigate the upcoming elections in Taiwan, according to a report issued Monday by a US policy organisation.

The report was published by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP) after it hosted closed-door discussions in New York April 3-4 by some 30 scholars and former officials from the United States, China and Taiwan on cross-strait issues.

Given the growing security risks in the Taiwan Strait, a US participant said, Beijing and Taipei should rebuild an authoritative back-channel to minimise surprises and mitigate the risk of unintended escalation, according to the report.

The American participant also suggested that China reduce military activities around Taiwan in the run-up to Taiwan’s presidential election, which will take place on January 11, 2019, according to the report.

When asked about the intent underlying China’s fighter planes incursion across the Taiwan Strait median line, the Chinese participants provided several explanations, saying, for example, that the flights were in response to regularised and publicised US Navy transits of the Taiwan Strait and the gradual loosening of restrictions on transit stops in the US by Taiwan’s president, the report said.

The flights may also have been a response to Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s steady efforts to separate Taiwan from China, and to news reports that the US would sell F-16s to Taiwan, the Chinese participants added.

The main point of commonality in the Chinese explanations, the report said, was that it was a deliberate incursion meant to signal displeasure with cross-strait developments, the report said.

According to Taiwan’s defense ministry, two J-11 fighter planes from the People’s Liberation Army of China crossed the median line and entered Taiwan’s southwestern airspace on March 31.

Military sources told CNA that it was the first time since 1999 that the Chinese military had intentionally crossed the median line of the waterway that separates Taiwan and China.

With Taiwan’s presidential election approaching, the American and Taiwan participants in the forum said, they were deeply concerned about Beijing’s efforts to influence the political discourse in Taiwan through cyber, monetary, and media efforts.

They said that Chinese influences had become increasingly active prior to the November 2018 local elections.

The Chinese participants, however, said that such arguments were not convincing, given the lack of publicly available evidence to support such claims.

Commenting on the growing mistrust in cross-strait relations, a Chinese participant said that the more Beijing squeezed Taiwan’s international space, the more Taiwan had been turning to Washington for support, and the more Beijing felt compelled to further squeeze Taiwan’s international space.

According to a Taiwanese participant, however, Beijing’s actions toward Taiwan were generating momentum in Washington toward viewing China as a competitor and Taiwan as a partner, the report said.

An American participant, meanwhile, talked about the public health risks associated with Beijing’s efforts to deny Taiwan participation in World Health Organization-related events and access to technical data.

The participants included David Brown, a professor at Johns Hopkins University; Raymond Burghardt, former chair of the de facto US embassy in Taiwan; Lin Cheng-yi, former deputy head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council; and Ho Szu-yin, Professor of Tamkang University.

Among the Chinese participants were Ruan Zongze, vice President of the China Institute of International Studies, and Shao Yuqun, director of Institute of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau Studies at Shanghai Institute for International Studies.


Category: Taiwan

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