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U.S. could cut ties with China if Beijing attacks Taiwan: Expert

04/13/2024 07:08 PM
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From left to right: Guermantes Lailari, a visiting scholar at Taiwan's Institute for National Defense and Security Research; Joshua Thomas Wenger, a postdoctoral research associate at Academia Sinica's Institute of Sociology; Tony Hu (胡振東) Taiwan's first senior country director at the Pentagon; and Yu Tsung-chi (余宗基), a former dean of National Defense University's Fu Hsing Kang College. CNA photo April 13, 2024
From left to right: Guermantes Lailari, a visiting scholar at Taiwan's Institute for National Defense and Security Research; Joshua Thomas Wenger, a postdoctoral research associate at Academia Sinica's Institute of Sociology; Tony Hu (胡振東) Taiwan's first senior country director at the Pentagon; and Yu Tsung-chi (余宗基), a former dean of National Defense University's Fu Hsing Kang College. CNA photo April 13, 2024

Taipei, April 13 (CNA) If China invades Taiwan, the United States could break off diplomatic ties with Beijing under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), an expert said Saturday at a forum in Taipei, citing an often overlooked clause in the act.

Guermantes Lailari, a visiting scholar at Taiwan's Institute for National Defense and Security Research, highlighted a provision under Section 2 of the TRA, which he said could have a significant impact on U.S.-China diplomatic relations if China took military actions against Taiwan.

The provision states that it is the policy of the U.S. to make clear that its "decision to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China rests upon the expectation that the future of Taiwan will be determined by peaceful means."

In other words, if China wages war on Taiwan, the U.S. and China are "done," Lailari said at the forum marking the 45th anniversary of the TRA, organized by the Formosa Republican Association.

"Most people don't read that sentence. And most people ignore it because they don't like it. But it's there," the retired U.S. Air Force officer added.

Former U.S. Representative Rodney Chandler guest speaks at the "Symposium on the ROC-US Relations Under the Taiwan Relations Act: Practice and Prospect" at Taiwan's National Chengchi University in April 5,1988. CNA file photo
Former U.S. Representative Rodney Chandler guest speaks at the "Symposium on the ROC-US Relations Under the Taiwan Relations Act: Practice and Prospect" at Taiwan's National Chengchi University in April 5,1988. CNA file photo

The TRA has served as the legal framework guiding Washington's unofficial relations with Taipei, including providing weapons for Taiwan's self-defense, since then U.S. President Jimmy Carter signed it into law on April 10, 1979.

Tony Hu (胡振東), who served as the first senior country director for Taiwan at the Pentagon, said he was not sure how long Taiwan and the U.S. could continue celebrating anniversaries of the TRA, as he is worried that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) might be preparing to take military actions against Taiwan.

"If Xi Jinping attacks Taiwan, I believe that will be the end of the TRA because the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) will be replaced by [an] American Embassy in Taipei," Hu said. "There will be no TRA required."

The TRA facilitated the establishment of the AIT, which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of official diplomatic ties.

Joshua Thomas Wenger, a postdoctoral research associate at Academia Sinica's Institute of Sociology, said there was a debate in Washington in recent years over possible enhancement of the TRA to include a clear U.S. commitment to Taiwan's defense.

Wenger also noted that there is an inconsistency between Taiwanese public opinion and key arguments for maintaining the "strategic ambiguity" of the TRA.

Those who argue in favor of retaining the TRA's "ambiguity" say it would deter either side of the Taiwan Strait from unilaterally changing the "status quo" and China from using force against Taiwan, Wenger pointed out.

It would also prevent "free-riding" by Taiwan by investing less in self-defense and the U.S. from falling into "alliance entrapment" and consequently being dragged into a conflict with China over Taiwan's political status, he said.

Then Deputy-Foreign Minister Chang Hsiao-yen (章孝嚴) addresses attendees of the "Symposium on the ROC-US Relations Under the Taiwan Relations Act: Practice and Prospect" at Taiwan's National Chengchi University in April 5,1988. CNA file photo
Then Deputy-Foreign Minister Chang Hsiao-yen (章孝嚴) addresses attendees of the "Symposium on the ROC-US Relations Under the Taiwan Relations Act: Practice and Prospect" at Taiwan's National Chengchi University in April 5,1988. CNA file photo

However, citing data compiled from the China Impact Studies by his institute, the Taiwan National Security Studies jointly conducted by Duke University and National Chengchi University, and other open sources, Wegner noted that a majority of Taiwanese are already aware of the Chinese military threat related to declaring independence.

The data indicates that Taiwan is unlikely to "free-ride" if there is increased clarity in the TRA, as respondents who believe the U.S. should defend Taiwan are also more likely to support increased defense spending, Wenger said.

Overall, Taiwanese need greater reassurance that the U.S. is committed to defending Taiwan, he added.

(By Sean Lin)

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