Over the past week I have been concerned that domestic political issues have distracted us from focusing enough attention on the war in Ukraine, and perhaps made a war over Taiwan more likely. Today I focus on Taiwan.
"We want to maintain the status quo," the BBC quoted Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu saying on Aug. 5, "which is that Taiwan has no jurisdiction over mainland China and the People's Republic of China (CCP) has no jurisdiction over Taiwan. That is the reality."
While I wish that was true, the CCP claims jurisdiction over Taiwan — that’s the reality at this moment. Yet, with a dash of good luck, in time Wu’s assertion could be “the reality.”
Particularly since the days of Presidents Nixon and Carter, it seems as if the U.S. has gradually ceded ground as China has played the long game, and played us.
Two events in my life animate my personal concern about this issue.
I have described those two events in prior columns. My visit to the Chinese Embassy with the class of “We the People” students and my visit to Hong Kong, both about 15 years ago, convinced me that China was a problem needing our attention.
However, those two events also reinforced my long-standing belief that the Chinese people are not the problem — it’s their ruling Communist Party (CCP). After the nationalist and communist forces battled each other and the Japanese during World War II, the U.S. supported the nationalists in their civil war with only weapons and economic support. Doesn’t this half-way measure from 1946 sound like our current actions, or inactions, in Ukraine and Taiwan, at least so far?
We can do better.
Here are some suggestions: We must take bold actions now, and also play the long game.
First, we must applaud U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip as re-emphasizing our commitment to Taiwan that a long string of prior U.S. leaders from the Congressional side have accomplished by visiting, especially Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997.
Second, we need to follow up the visit with several visible and covert actions. At least one carrier group should pass through the Taiwan Straits in the very near future. A limited port visit should follow a couple of months later. Another delegation would also be helpful, this time perhaps including our Secretary of State. We should beef up our capabilities on Okinawa, Guam and the bases in Japan. Consideration should be given to increased capability in other countries in that Pacific area, including Australia. Covert wise, we should place more of our advisors in Taiwan.
Third, while taking the military and diplomatic actions I recommend above, a trade agreement with Taiwan that Speaker Pelosi apparently discussed with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ingwen would be a move in the right direction. According to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal last weekend, “…if Mrs. Pelosi is serious about countering China’s attempt to isolate Taiwan, she could support renewal of the expired trade promotional authority that allows the White House to fast-track trade deals in Congress.”
Fourth, to counter the perception that America under at least this administration does not project strength, President Biden should more aggressively push for the release of WNBA player Brittney Griner. She is a hostage, plain and simple. Perhaps instead of a limited prisoner swap, there should be some larger deal involving Ukraine in which Griner is returned as part of the deal. The goal would be to increase the possibility of a reasonable trade, and also accomplish the larger purpose of putting more pressure on Putin to end this long war of attrition that seems to be favoring the Russians. For example, over many columns I have urged that a no-fly zone not be taken off the table. Perhaps there is a way to reinstate a different kind of no-fly zone by the presence of U.S. warships in the Black Sea equipped and willing to shoot down Russian missiles directed at Ukrainian targets.
Fifth, I suggest that the Biden administration undergoes a thorough review of defense policy to address several issues including: recruiting shortfalls especially in the context of woke recruiting videos, repositioning military assets more strategically around the world, increasing the size and flexibility of the Navy, examining the Space Force capability, and conferring on how best to deal with hot spots such as Taiwan, together with our allies, especially to include India. In my opinion, we should reduce the uncertainty of strategic ambivalence. This would solidify the President’s off-the-cuff assurance that we would defend Taiwan, and send a clear signal to our partners in the Pacific that they can count on the United States.
Then with that dash of luck, Taiwan’s Foreign Minister’s assertion might be reality. While I am far from a fan of Nancy Pelosi, this time I say, thank you.
Contact Larry Little at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Larry Little: Bold foreign moves, while playing a long game