- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2012

Recently there has been an unprecedented volume of talk, some of it serious, about the possibility that the United States could be backing away from its arms sales to Taiwan (“Taiwanese president’s re-election may sour U.S. arms sales,” Web, Jan. 17). This is a serious matter, with academics and officials alike having expressed their views on the implications of the outcome of Taiwan’s recent presidential election.

Considering the issue from a variety of perspectives, President Ma Ying-jeou will face many major challenges in his second term. He needs a strategy to ensure that Taiwan remains competitive in cross-strait dynamic balancing. Taiwan needs to improve its defensive strategy and capability because it cannot be absolutely certain that Beijing will never use its increasingly robust military power for some degree of coercion.

Walking away from Taiwan could only sap the United States’ negotiating power throughout the region. Moreover, it could send friends in the area, such as Japan and South Korea, into China’s arms.

Although Washington was pleased with the peaceful and orderly conduct of the presidential election, what lies ahead for U.S. relations with Taipei is less clear. Talks on closer trade relations and additional weapons sales are stalled. Yet in a major review of U.S. foreign policy, the Obama administration has announced a pivot toward Southeast Asia, opening opportunities for new initiatives with a friendly and democratic Taiwan.

If Washington is as pleased with the Ma government as it claims to be, then more robust initiatives are justified, including sales of advanced F-16 fighter jets, the granting of Taiwan visa-waiver status, Cabinet-level visits, and the inclusion of Taiwan in trade agreements that promote free markets across the Pacific.

Some may ask why the U.S. ought to care about Taiwan. Taiwan is at the core of future political and security relations with China. Increased U.S. support of Taiwan would enable the small democratic island to maintain a sufficient means of self-defense capability. The U.S. should reaffirm its Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) commitment now.

KENT WANG

Former president

Taiwan Benevolent Association of America

Potomac Falls, Va.