WASHINGTON – Taiwan welcomes stronger Japan-U.S. defense ties, especially given their announced strategic goal of seeking cross-strait peace, Taiwan’s chief representative to the United States said in a recent interview.
David Tawei Lee, who heads the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington, said Taiwan needs to maintain its deterrence against China’s growing military power.
This can be achieved, he said, by purchasing weapons from the U.S. to build up Taiwan’s defenses and through U.S. support and domestic consensus.
“We have to prepare (for) the nightmare scenario,” Lee said, referring to Beijing’s stated policy that it will use force if Taiwan moves toward independence. China regards the island as a renegade province.
The representative office serves as a de facto embassy for Taiwan, which does not have diplomatic ties with the U.S.
Washington recognizes Beijing as the sole government of China under its “one-China” policy, but it is committed to helping Taiwan defend itself.
“We welcome the further defense relationship between Japan and the United States,” Lee said. “We think that’s very good.”
Lee especially cited the “common strategic objectives” that highlighted the joint statement adopted by Japan and the United States in February 2005 at their meeting of top officials in charge of defense and foreign affairs.
The strategic goals include encouraging the peaceful resolution of issues concerning the Taiwan Strait, encouraging China to improve transparency of its military affairs, and developing cooperative ties with Beijing so it will play a “responsible and constructive” role regionally and globally.
Based on these objectives, Washington and Tokyo agreed to upgrade their security ties into a global alliance and to boost their defense cooperation.
“We welcome that statement,” Lee said. “But with the current political situation, I think that it will be very difficult for Taiwan to become a triangular partner.”
Japan and the U.S. adopted a comprehensive package of agreements at the October security meeting to integrate operations and share roles between their military forces and to realign the U.S. military presence in Japan.
Officials are now working to craft an implementation plan for the package.
Asked about China’s military buildup, Lee said, “You have to have enough defense capabilities as a deterrence to make sure that China will not cross the Taiwan Strait.”
Lee also stressed the need for Taiwan to “have a consensus between the party of the government and the party of the opposition that we see the threat of China as a real danger.”
“I think another important deterrence is the U.S. support,” Lee said, referring to Washington’s legal commitments for helping the island’s defense under the Taiwan Relations Act.
Against this backdrop, Lee said Taiwan must implement weapons purchases from the U.S., which have been halted due to rejection by the main opposition Nationalist Party, calling it a “critical issue” for Taiwan’s defense.
“We have to stand up on our own, we have to enhance our defense capabilities by purchasing those weapons systems offered by the U.S. government,” he said.
Lee also said that Taiwan is “very, very pleased” that Washington always mentions the Taiwan Relations Act, along with the one-China policy, when it responds to China’s complaints about the Taiwan issue.
On the increasing U.S. pressure on China to promote democracy, Lee said, “A rising China with communism . . . is the most dangerous threat.
“But the problem is the current leadership. I don’t think they are convinced that they should start with the democratization process,” he said, citing ongoing crackdowns on the news media and repression of freedom of speech.
“Maybe not in our lifetimes,” he said.