Joseph A. Bosco: Straight Talk on Taiwan





[Joseph A. Bosco, a national security consultant, specialized in China-Taiwan-U.S. relations at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service. He worked for the China desk in Asia- Pacific Security Affairs at the office of the secretary of Defense.]

In August 1995 and March 1996, China fired missiles across the Taiwan Strait, closing it to international commerce.

On both occasions, President Clinton sent aircraft carriers to deter Chinese escalation, the first time directly through the Taiwan Strait. China condemned this "violation" of its sovereignty (just as it now objects to planned U.S.-South Korea naval exercises in the Yellow Sea) and threatened "a sea of fire" for the next battle group entering the strait.

The ships stayed out, China stopped firing missiles, and the crisis dissipated.

That time....

Both countries now prepare for war in a classic deterrence/counter-deterrence dynamic, a formula for catastrophic mutual miscalculation.

Neither Beijing nor Washington wants war, but as long as China believes the U.S. will ultimately abandon democratic Taiwan to avoid it, the danger of conflict increases.

It is time for U.S. clarity on Taiwan; strategic ambiguity has run its course.

Washington should declare that we would defend democratic Taiwan against any Chinese attack or coercion, and that we also welcome Taiwan's participation in international organizations (starting by inviting President Ma Ying-jeou to Honolulu for the December meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group)....

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