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US Should Keep Its Hands off Taiwan

How wide is the gap between the three China-US joint communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act? 

The US has dug out a chasm between them. Hence, it can manage its relationship with China under two contradictory principles.


Colonel Al Wilner, an officer on the active list, is due in Taipei in days to lead the Military Technology Section of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).


Wilner will be the first serving military officer sent to Taiwan by the US since it snubbed diplomatic relations with the island 26 years ago.


Wilner's stationing in Taipei will elevate US-Taiwan military relations. This will poison Sino-US ties that have been running smoothly.


The move will cast a fresh shadow over bilateral ties as the two countries prepare for an exchange of visits by heads of states later this year.


The US government claims to support the one-China policy in the context of the three Sino-US joint communiqués. This means the US will only have diplomatic relations with the government of the People's Republic of China, though it will maintain all other forms of ties with Taiwan.


At the same time it adheres to the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. The bill mandates arms sales that allow Taiwan to "maintain a sufficient self-defense capability." More specifically, in terms of the US-Taiwan defense relationship, this means maintaining a military balance across the Taiwan Straits through the provision of arms, military services and training to Taipei.


For a long time AIT has hired retired American military officers as contractors to coordinate defense assistance.


AIT spokesperson Dana Smith confirmed in December 2004 that non-uniformed, active-duty military and Department of Defense civilian personnel will replace these contractors.


This reversal of a long-standing policy is dangerous as it marks closer military relations between the US and Taiwan. Furthermore, it will give secessionists in Taiwan a much-needed shot in the arm.


It is a betrayal of the US pledges in the 1978 documents forging Sino-US diplomatic ties.


The military relations between the US and Taiwan escalate tension across the Straits. The US remains the leading arms exporter to Taiwan.


In October 2002, the US Congress amended the Taiwan Relations Act to permit the direct assignment of US government personnel to AIT to promote administrative efficiency.


US-Taiwan military contact has not only expanded in scope, but also upgraded in level.


A hotline to deal with military crises was set up between high-level officials of the Taiwanese army and the Pentagon in the latter half of 2002. The Taiwanese army is required to notify the US of the situation across the Taiwan Straits and report troop movements.


This proves US-Taiwan military cooperation is not limited to arms sales, but also encompasses tactical cooperation and a strategic alliance.


By maintaining military contact with Taiwan, the US is interfering with China's internal affairs.


The clear shift from "strategic ambiguity" to "strategic clarity" will encourage the "Taiwan independence" forces, especially the politicians, to push the envelope.


We do not want to see tension across the Straits flaring up. Conflict does not help anyone.


Taiwan is part of China. The US knows and accepts this fact. So stop the double-dealing tactics. It should keep its hands off the island.


(China Daily July 29, 2005)

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