President Trump, or State Secretary Pompeo Should Visit Taiwan!
Dr. Ilias Iliopoulos
Donald Trump is arguably the most pro-Taiwan President in American history. During his (first) presidency, U.S. Navy warships sail through the Taiwan Strait — the international waters separating the island republic from mainland China — on a routine basis, compared with just one to three times a year under former President Barack Obama. While both Obama and George W. Bush refused Taiwan’s legitimate and reasonable requests to buy F16s for fear of provoking Beijing’s anger, President Trump approved the fighter jets sale — the first since 1992. And after his first election, in November 2016, Donald Trump became the first U.S. President or President-elect to speak directly with his Taiwanese counterpart since Jimmy Carter downgraded U.S. diplomatic relations in 1978 when he accepted a congratulatory call from President Tsai Ing-wen. Of course, such calls are routine in similar instances, but because of the ridiculous diplomatic constraints placed on Taiwan to the benefit of communist China, Donald Trump’s direct communication with Ms. Tsai marked a historical milestone, as it would be seen in the years to come.
The conventional wisdom in the U.S. foreign policy bureaucracy holds that so long as Taiwan does not declare formal independence, Beijing will not invade. But, as Oriana Skylar Mastro from the American Enterprise Institute points out, there is a real danger that the lesson Beijing’s state and party ruling bureaucratic elite has taken from President Tsai’s triumphal reelection in last January is that “the only way Taiwan will ever ‘reunify’ (sic) with mainland China is at the end of a gun.”
Our readers are well aware of the fact that Beijing’s state and party ruling elite claims Taiwan as a province, although Taiwan had never been part of the territory of the so called People’s Republic of China. They are aware of the fact that Beijing’s regime has increasingly been using all means sort of an invasion (i.e., diplomatic and economic isolation and even strangulation, military threats, bullying, blackmail, and so on and so forth) to make the Taiwanese people and their leaders accept Beijing’s sovereignty under the same notorious “One Country, Two Systems” principle by which it rules Hong Kong. Yet, after watching Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong, the Taiwanese people want nothing of the similar and decided to send the Chinese Communist Party a clear message. As Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Dr. Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), told in an interview in last January, “young voters here in Taiwan see the young demonstrators in Hong Kong fighting for their freedom and democracy [and realize] if they don’t come out and try to save our country through the democratic process, Taiwan might become a second Hong Kong.”
To prevent such nightmare from becoming reality and preserve regional stability and security, the United States must give up its old, passée, and counterproductive policy of “strategic ambiguity” with regard to Taiwan and proceed with implementation of a strategy of deterrence of the People’s Republic of China. It must be fairly said that President Trump’s administration has elevated ties with Taiwan and sold it game-changing weapons (F-16 fighter jets, torpedoes, surface-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, mobile anti-ship Harpoon missiles). The idea is to raise the costs of a Chinese invasion by making Taiwan a “porcupine.”
It goes without saying that President Trump’s approach enraged both Beijing’s despots and the foreign policy establishment in the U.S.; remarkably enough though, this policy has had an increasingly bipartisan support in Congress. In a sense, President Trump was just complying with the Taiwan Relations Act, which requires the U.S. Administration to sell the Republic of China (Taiwan) weapons necessary for its self-defense. But prior U.S. Administrations had failed to meet this standard because of their notorious policies of appeasement of communist China. Furthermore, President Trump sent Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to Taiwan, the first visit by a U.S. Cabinet Secretary in decades; and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler will follow next month.
Still, one thing Trump can do to put an appropriate capstone on his policy, as Christian Whiton from the Center for National Interest correctly puts it, is visit Taiwan or send Vice President Mike Pence or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as his representative.
The bellyaching from the Appeasers in the U.S. foreign policy establishment and in the mainstream media alone would make the trip worthwhile. The Appeasers would accuse the President of violating the notorious, de facto obsolete “One China Policy” and encourage Taiwan to declare formal independence from mainland China. If truth be told though, such step would violate no existing agreement of the United States with the People’s Republic of China.
Even more importantly, such gesture would have huge political, moral, and symbolic significance for both the Taiwanese people “looking down the barrel of a Chinese gun” and the American people. It would certainly be a splendid recognition of the stupendous efforts made by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Foreign Minister Dr. Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), Taiwan’s Representative in the United States Ambassador Bi-khim Hsiao (蕭美琴), and the entire Taiwanese Administration to maintain and defend their freedom, dignity, way of life, their tremendous political, institutional, societal, and cultural achievements – and the geopolitical status quo.
As for the Americans, Whiton is right when pointing out that, were President Trump, Vice-President Pence, or Secretary of State Pompeo to visit Taiwan, he would be greeted by cheering crowds exceeding those welcoming President John F. Kennedy during his historical visit to West Berlin in 1963. The degree of enthusiasm and gratitude would be unprecedented. Indeed, it would be the ultimate personification of gratitude not just for a President and his Staff who did stand up to despotic China, but of gratitude for the American people – something the American people desperately need, especially after the coup d’ état against their President, and after having virtually been bombed for years with so much self-hatred, guilt pathology, constant, vitriolic attacks, and jihadist-like demolition of any national narrative and any notion and symbol of patriotism, coming from the part of the radical Left and the forces of nihilist de-constructivism.
*Dr. Ilias Iliopoulos has been the Professor of History, Strategy and Geopolitics of Sea Power at the Hellenic Naval War College for eleven years, and an Associate Professor of Maritime History at the American College of Greece (Deree College); he is currently teaching at the Department of Turkish and Asian Studies of the University of Athens.