Declassified cables reveal U.S. assurances on Taiwan's defense

08/31/2020 10:52 PM
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Photo from ait.org.tw
Photo from ait.org.tw

Taipei, Aug. 31 (CNA) Washington's release of two declassified cables from nearly 40 years ago on its security assurances to Taiwan reflect the United States' commitment to Taiwan at a time when it is under threat from China, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Monday.

The two cables from 1982, declassified on July 16, 2020, and posted on the American Institute in Taiwan's (AIT) website earlier Monday, focus on arms sales to Taiwan and the 'Six Assurances' made to Taiwan.

Though neither offer any specific revelations, they both represent pledges of U.S. support for Taiwan today and the desire to send a message to China amid regional tensions and questions over whether the U.S. would help Taipei if attacked by Beijing.

The cables demonstrate the U.S.' "strong commitment" to Taiwan's security "amid China's continued actions to destroy peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and in the region," MOFA said in a statement.

The ministry said the U.S. wanted to stop China from continuing to distort the 1982 Communique and remind it of its promise to resolve the Taiwan Strait issue peacefully by making public more details of how the U.S. dealt with both sides of the Taiwan Strait at the time.

The first declassified cable, titled "Taiwan Arms Sales," was sent from then-U.S. Under Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger to then-AIT Director James Lilley on July 10, 1982.

According to the AIT, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan, it provides the American interpretation of the 1982 Communique between the U.S. and the People's Republic of China (PRC) as it relates to ongoing U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

"The cable explains that the U.S. willingness to reduce its arms sales to Taiwan is conditioned upon the continued commitment of the PRC to a peaceful solution of the Taiwan-PRC differences," the AIT said in its summary of the lengthy cable.

"Further, if the PRC were to become belligerent or build up power projection capability that brought insecurity or instability to the area, then the United States would increase arms sales to Taiwan," the AIT said.

The directive indicates that the U.S.' chief concern was maintaining the balance of power across the Taiwan Strait, and thus, the quantity and quality of arms provided to Taiwan would be conditioned entirely on the threat posed by the PRC, according to the AIT.

The memo ends by offering "this final assurance: U.S. arms sales to Taiwan will continue," the AIT said.

Those same ideas were echoed in an internal presidential memo drafted by President Ronald Reagan on August 17, 1982, which serves as the guidelines for the U.S. interpretation of the 1982 Communique.

The second cable, titled "Assurances for Taiwan," was sent on Aug. 17, 1982 from then-U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz to Lilley, offering six assurances to Taiwan, publicly and privately reinforcing the above message, according to the AIT.

The Six Assurances, made by Reagan to Taiwan in 1982, have been a foundational element in U.S. policy toward Taiwan and the PRC, the AIT said.

They include U.S. pledges not to set a date for ending arms sales to Taiwan, not to consult with the PRC on arms sales to Taiwan, not to play a mediation role between Taipei and Beijing, not to revise the Taiwan Relations Act, not to alter its position regarding sovereignty over Taiwan, and not to exert pressure on Taiwan to enter into negotiations with the PRC.

(By Chen Yun-yu and Emerson Lim)

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