Monday, March 29, 2004

Taiwan situation escalating politically,

The BBC reports that the Taiwan election controversy is going to court, with the opposition leader Lien Chan demanding a recount that has been agreed to in principle by the incumbent and tenative victor Chen.

However, the Washington Post reports that Chen is claiming a mandate for his independence initiatives despite a dead heat statistical tie in the election results.

***
Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, speaking in his first interview since a failed attempt on his life and a narrow election victory that his opponents are contesting, declared Monday he had won a mandate from voters to press ahead with an agenda to develop Taiwan as an "independent, sovereign country" despite the risk of war with China.

Chen vowed to go forward with plans to write a new constitution for Taiwan within two years, a move China has said could amount to a declaration of independence and compel it to seize the island by force...

The United States is committed to helping Taiwan defend itself against a Chinese attack, but officials have expressed concern that Chen's plan to draft a new constitution might draw U.S. forces into an unnecessary military confrontation with China. The Chinese government claims sovereignty over Taiwan and threatens to seize it by force if it formally declares independence...

"The fundamental reason I won this presidential election . . . is because there is a rising Taiwan identity and it has been solidified," Chen said. "I think the Beijing authorities should take heed of this fact and accept the reality."

"I think we have reached an internal consensus that insists on Taiwan being an independent, sovereign country,"
[emphasis added]
***

Read the transcript of his interview yourself:

"I think the key issue is not that I personally refuse to accept the "one China" principle. It's the 23 million people of Taiwan who cannot accept the so-called "one China" principle."

This represents a major escalation of the political stakes, because Chen is rejecting the "One China" Principle that China's leaders have declared that they are willing to go to war over.

While Chen has stated that he opposes the "One China" principle previously, he had left himself some wiggle room on his position with sufficient rhetorical ambiguity to stand short of commiting himself to an open break.

***
"We cannot possibly accept the 'one country, two systems' formula and become a local government of the People's Republic of China."
...
"Who knows if these two separate countries (Taiwan and China) might become one over time? We do not exclude any possibilities for the future."
***

This therefore his remarks now can be construed as a significant break with previous ambiguity regarding the situation.

This has blown up to the extent that the moviestar Jackie Chan has condemned the Taiwanese election results even as the Taiwanese themselves struggle to deal with the aftemath of the election (BBC). The Washington Post has a internet chat briefing given by a senior policy fellow at the the Brookings Institute regarding the internal politics of Taiwan.

Despite the oldman's fondness forJackie Chan, in recent times the stunt-crazy film star has become marginalized in the Asian film industry because of personal scandal. His films also have had varying degrees of pro-Chinese propaganda slants.

This is a troublesome situation since the The New Republic Online discusses how the military doubts we could fight another war right now besides Iraq!

As one Army official puts it, "The [Pentagon's civilian] policy folks say that our military is large enough to carry out Operation Iraqi Freedom while simultaneously dealing with North Korea. But, if you put that question to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, they would be pulling their hair out."

Woah! Is this guy nuts? He's bearding China at the very same time that we're tied down in Iraq, and now he's gambling we'll back him as he provokes a war with China (FAM)!!!

Unfortunately, Taiwan is unable to credibly deter or deflect a Chinese attack (especially a rapid strike) at present, despite greatly increased levels of U.S. assistance. Indeed, it appears that many Taiwanese political and military leaders incorrectly believe that the island does not need to acquire such capabilities and can rely on the United States entirely.

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