U.S., Japan statement important for Taiwan security
By Arthur I. Cyr
The April 16 meeting at the White House between U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga underscored the strong alliance between their powerful nations, and went further.
The two leaders publicly emphasized "the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait" and their commitment to "peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues." They also went on record expressing strong concern regarding Beijing's suppression of freedom in Hong Kong and persecution of the Uyghur ethnic minority.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which has controlled Taiwan government for the past five years, is formally committed to independence from China. President Tsai Ing-wen is also notable as the first woman elected to lead the island.
China has become increasingly militant and assertive in the region, including reconfirming commitment to absorbing Taiwan. Current aggressiveness of China in maritime and military terms adds teeth to the continuing harsh, expansionist rhetoric.
In 2016 the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Chicago, which represents Taiwan, hosted a seminar to review and discuss the implications of the return of the DPP to governing power. There was general agreement President Tsai had effectively endorsed the framework of cooperation initiated by Beijing and Taipei in 1992, without actually repeating the commitment to "one country, two systems."
One seminar participant suggested emphasizing the Chinese people globally, a primary source of overseas investment. This was an insightful and shrewd suggestion, still worth consideration by government leaders of Taiwan.
In February 2014, representatives of the island and the mainland agreed to exchange representative offices. Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun of China, and Taiwan Mainland Affairs Minister Wang Yu-chi led face-to-face negotiations. Since 2016, however, relations have politically continued to deteriorate.
The two sides share a bitter legacy of battle and blood. In 1949, Nationalist forces of General Chiang Kai-shek evacuated to Taiwan. Mao Zedong's armies consolidated control of the mainland. Except for the island territory, communist revolution was complete.
The Korean War of 1950-1953 made the Cold War global, with China and the United States direct combatants. U.S. commitment to Taiwan security became explicit. Before North Korea invaded South Korea in late June 1950, the Truman administration was resigned to victorious communist forces conquering Taiwan along with the rest of China
Nonetheless, de facto economic cooperation, built steadily if slowly over time, continues. Pragmatism characterizes Taiwan's approach to mainland China. Following formal U.S. diplomatic recognition of Beijing in 1978, a consequence of President Richard Nixon's 1972 visit, Taipei immediately launched a comprehensive essentially non-confrontational strategic response.
In November 2008, agreement was achieved on far-reaching trade accords, including direct shipping, expansion of weekly passenger flights from 36 to 108, and introduction of up to 60 cargo flights per month.
In 2010, the bilateral Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) was concluded. This has remained a major triumph for then-President Ma Ying-jeou. His election as Taiwan chief executive in 2008 and 2012 greatly furthered cooperation with Beijing.
Taiwan is an essential investor for the economic revolution on the mainland. Successful overseas Chinese in turn are a vital source of capital for the mainland. Expatriate Chinese vote in Taiwan elections.
The last comparable U.S.-Japan declaration about Taiwan was from President Richard Nixon and Prime Minister Eisaku Sato in 1969. That year saw the U.S. entangled in the Vietnam War, China with new nuclear weapons, and in an intense Cold War environment.
Today's tensions with China are less severe.
To learn more, see the book "Why Taiwan Matters" by Shelley Rigger.
• Arthur I. Cyr, email@example.com, of Northbrook, is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of "After the Cold War."