The US and Taiwan have strong incentive for stronger industrial cooperation

An Industrial Tripwire Approach for Saving Taiwan

The US has strategic interests in Taiwan, in part because of its geopolitical location in the center of the First Island Chain; in part because it is a bulwark against a potentially expansionist China, a country with multiple territorial claims over many islands in the region that belong to other countries such as Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam; in part because China has already illegally grabbed territory in the South China Sea; and in part because Taiwan is important economically.

How, then to defend the island and, better yet, deter any attack? My answer is that the best way to do this is to plant the American flag as firmly as we can on the island.

A straightforward way to do this is to encourage high-tech American companies to locate in Taiwan and partner with high-tech Taiwanese companies wherever possible. The idea is that China would have to pause before ramping up any attack that would directly threaten US assets in the country.

US companies flocked to China and only now realize that China has turned inhospitable to US industry. US industry is looking for other places to be, and Taiwan is an ideal choice. It has technological know-how that is vital to the future of the US economy and to US national security. It is extremely friendly and open to Americans. And we can benefit while helping Taiwan.

The US is not directly obliged by any treaty or law to support Taiwan if it is attacked.

Some claim that the Taiwan Relations Act supports the idea that the United States is obliged to support Taiwan if it is under attack, but that claim is only partly supported by the Act.

What the Act does say is that the United States will support Taiwan with armaments. By extension many suppose that obligation includes active defense by the United States, but the Act does not say that and it is up to US policy makers to decide how and when to act, if at all, in case of an attack by China.

Other countries, most notably Japan, have said that, if China attacks Taiwan, Japan will regard that as an attack on Japan. That ought to trigger a military response by Japan, but it is not so clear that it will, nor is there any clear idea of what form such a response might take if there is one.

Officially the United States has adhered to a policy of what Washington calls “strategic ambiguity.” As a policy, strategic ambiguity is an excuse for Washington to pretend it neither supports nor declines to support Taiwan.

China today is concerned that the US is really supporting, sub rosa, Taiwan independence, something the Chinese say violates the understandings it has with the United States. The Chinese point to arms sales by the US to Taiwan, and also to US freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea and Taiwan straits.

Read the rest at AsiaTimes.

Stephen Bryen is a Senior Fellow at Yorktown Institute.

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