With China and Russia conducting mock war exercises against U.S. forces in Asia, it is time for less ambiguity and more clarity over U.S. war commitments to Taiwan. For if Beijing finds U.S. policy incomprehensible, she is not alone. Consider:
In the Shanghai Communique negotiated by Henry Kissinger, the U.S. acknowledged, “that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States does not challenge that position.”
Jimmy Carter went further. In a Joint Communique, Jan. 1, 1979, the U.S. recognized the PRC “as the sole legal government of China.” Relations with Taiwan were broken. The defense treaty of 1955 was scrapped.
On Aug. 17, 1982, a third Joint Communique, negotiated by Alexander Haig, went even further. The U.S. declared that it “does not seek to carry out a long-term policy of arms sales to Taiwan, that its arms sales to Taiwan will not exceed, either in qualitative or in quantitative terms, the level of those supplies in recent years … and that it intends to reduce gradually its sales of arms to Taiwan, leading over a period of time to a final resolution.” Thus, 19 years ago, Ronald Reagan agreed to phase out U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
Some of us opposed all three communiques, but that does not alter the fact: America sold the pass, a long time ago. Mr. Bush now wants to walk the cat back. He has warned China the U.S. will do “whatever it took to help Taiwan defend itself.” But what exactly does this mean? U.S. ground troops, cruise missile strikes on the mainland, tactical atomic weapons? We have a right to know.
And before we get into a shooting war, Congress should tell us where the president got his authority to commit America to war over an island-province of China we have no diplomatic relations with, and no defense treaty with. If Taiwan is “part of China,” U.S. intervention to block its reunification with China would seem to be tantamount to Queen Victoria threatening Mr. Lincoln with war if he should use force to bring South Carolina back into the Union.
Some argue that, as Taiwan straddles the sea lanes through which must pass all the oil of Korea and Japan, the island cannot pass to Beijings control or our Pacific position is lost. Excellent argument. But why, then, did three presidents agree that Taiwan can return to Beijing, so long as the transfer is done peacefully?
And who will fight beside us? The Dutch and Germans will not even sell submarines to Taiwan. Not one Asian ally supported our deployment of U.S. carriers in the 1996 missile crisis in the strait. To Australias ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, an old friend, “It would be an act of lunacy for Australia to participate in a conflict between China and America over Taiwan.” And if we must fight for Taiwan, why are Taiwanese moving in the scores of thousands to China, and investing there in the scores of billions of dollars? Why are our Israeli friends selling advanced U.S. weapons to Beijing?
If we oppose the independence of Taiwan, what would we be fighting for? Comes the reply: To prevent Beijing from crushing democracy. But why is keeping Taiwans 22 million out of Beijings control worth a war, when keeping Hong Kongs 7 million people out of Beijings control did not even elicit a U.S. protest?
On Capitol Hill are many hawks willing to send U.S. pilots and carriers into a war to the death in the Taiwan Strait, but who would not dare antagonize their corporate contributors who have grown fat in the China trade. America must decide if she is going to fight this tiger, or feed it. Threatening China with war, while handing her $84 billion trade surpluses, as we did in 2000, is not only an incoherent policy, it is an immoral one. The Shane Osborns and sailors of the U.S. Pacific fleet should not die for such a policy.
While the Beijing regime is crude, brutal and arrogant, China represents no threat to us. And before we declare it our duty to “contain” China, and defend free Asia in a new Cold War, we ought to find out why free Asia cannot provide the ships, planes, guns and men to defend itself. As Lyndon Johnson said in 1964, “We are not about to send American boys 9,000 or 10,000 miles away to do what Asian boys ought to be doing to protect themselves.”
America is a republic, not an empire. Mr. Bush has no right to take us to war with China, unless so authorized by Congress. Where is Congress? Having stumbled our way into three Asian wars in one lifetime is enough. This time, tell us the truth, before the war.
Patrick J. Buchanan, Reform Party candidate for president in 2000, was on President Nixons official delegation to China in 1972.