A retired U.S. Marine colonel says the United States should commit to the defense of Taiwan against an attack by China, a decision that would end four decades of public uncertainty about American military intervention in the Taiwan Strait.
Grant Newsham, who was the first Marine liaison officer to the Japan Self-Defense Forces, told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday that the U.S. needed to clarity its intention to fight and even risk nuclear war on behalf of the democratic island claimed by Beijing.
“Make it clear to the Chinese leaders that they will lose everything if they start a war over Taiwan,” said Newsham. “The U.S. also needs to take the lead and help Taiwan break out of 40 years of military and diplomatic isolation.”
The U.S. has not been legally bound to defend Taiwan after 1979, when Washington switched official diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing.
U.S.-Taiwan relations have been guided by, among other things, the Taiwan Relations Act—passed the same year—which only commits to helping the island with its own self-defense preparations.
In the four decades since U.S. relations with Taiwan became officially unofficial, the question surrounding possible American assistance in a cross-strait conflict with China has been shrouded behind something known as “strategic ambiguity.”
Proponents of the purposely opaque commitment say the uncertainty serves U.S. interests. Beyond granting a potential element of surprise, a “blank check” pledge to Taiwan may inadvertently hamper Taipei’s defense mobilization efforts or, worse, force China into a corner over what Beijing says is a “core interest.”
However, advocates of “strategic clarity” believe the ambiguity that has held over the last 40 years is no longer an effective deterrent against China’s growing military might, which it has used to intimidate Taiwan through both traditional and non-traditional means.
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Author: John Feng
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