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Greater cooperation with Taiwan needed: former U.S. officials

2018/12/03 15:43:46

Taipei, Dec. 3 (CNA) Several former United States officials called Sunday at a forum in Taipei for greater cooperation between their country and Taiwan on the economic, industrial and strategic fronts to meet challenges posed by Chinese political warfare and global aspirations.

The White House should reach out to Taiwan to propose the establishment of a bilateral steering group on supply chain security and defense industrial cooperation, said Mark Stokes, executive director of the U.S.-based think tank Project 2049 Institute.

"The best example would be the initiative that was implemented in 1964, in which basically U.S. and Taiwan technological policies were aligned through establishment of the science and technology advisors. That to me is very important," said Stokes, a 20-year U.S. Air Force veteran who has served in intelligence and other positions.

Stokes was responding to a question on better U.S.-Taiwan collaboration against China's cyber espionage targeting high-tech companies through the use of hardware manipulation -- raised at a forum co-hosted by Taiwan Thinktank and Global Taiwan Institute based in Washington.

"Taiwan is an essential, strategic industrial source for the U.S.," John Tkacik, director of the Future Asia Project at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said as he applauded Stokes' idea of establishing a bilateral steering committee to enhance bilateral cooperation.

Given that the supply chain for high-tech hardware products is so deeply embedded in China, "it may require ripping it all out root and branch and start all over again" to ensure cyber supply chain security, said Tkacik, who served in the U.S. Foreign Service for 24 years.

"If we can't unravel this. If we can't figure out how to gain control of our cyber security with Taiwan's help, then the game is 90 percent over," Tkacik said.

In its second edition, the forum this year focused on China's "sharp power," defined by U.S. think tank analysts in a 2017 report as efforts by authoritarian influences to pierce, penetrate, or perforate the political and information environments in targeted countries.

The recent local elections of Nov. 24 in Taiwan have made it clear that the threats of sharp power or political interference exercised by China "is a reality" not only in Taiwan but increasingly worldwide, according to Michael Cole, a senior fellow of China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham.

China's influence operations in Taiwan involved planting disinformation in news coverage carried out by pro-Beijing media outlets and establishing connections with influential families, organizations, trade groups, Buddhist temples in Taiwan that have played a role in its political warfare in the Nov. 24 elections, according to Cole.

If Taiwan is to improve its collaboration with partners overseas on that subject, it will need to do its homework, Cole said. "And that begins by properly investing in institutions and individuals and agencies that have the ability to track, identify and help counter these kinds of activities."

William Stanton, a former director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), also emphasized the importance of investigating the identities of the actors in Taiwan that are coming under Chinese financial influence.

"We know there is a great deal of Chinese influence on a lot of people here," said Stanton, who now teaches at National Taiwan University's International College. "But the journalist community in Taiwan has not spent enough time finding out what's going on behind the scenes."

The panelists also highlighted the role of Taiwan in assisting the U.S. President Donald Trump administration's strategy for advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The U.S. should renew its efforts to nail down a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Taiwan at an early date, while Taiwan needs to do something to find a solution to disputes over restrictions on imports of U.S. pork and beef products, said Stephen Young, a former AIT director.

In Tkacik's presentation, he said Taiwan has a unique and important geopolitical position in the Western Pacific to fit in with the partnership strategy of the U.S. to meet the challenges arising from China's global aspirations through its "China Dream" and "One Belt One Road" initiatives.

Stokes suggested that the U.S. and Taiwan formulate a common vision for their future ties.

Instead of playing on the Communist Party of China's playing field, the U.S. and Taiwan should "play their own field," Stokes said, adding that both sides should develop a common vision to have by 2030 a normal, stable and constructive relationship.

(By Shih Hsiu-chuan)
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