US-Taiwan relations and their implications
Taiwan has had close relations with the United States since 1949, as a strategic asset of Washington foreign policy and Pentagon military planning.
In more recent times its strategic importance has increased with US attempts to counter the rise of China in the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere.
Recent US initiatives toward Taiwan have, therefore, been a useful indicator of the rising tide of US militarism. Other initiatives, at the behest of the US, also reveal a political campaign of unofficial diplomatic activity being launched from Taipei into the wider region to serve 'US interests'.
Diplomatic relations between the US and China’s unliberated Taiwan Province were established out of circumstance and Cold War positions. In December 1949, following the victory of forces led by Mao in China, the US moved their embassy from Beijing to Taipei in neighbouring Taiwan. Later, with the beginning of the Korean War, the US resumed aid to Taiwan and moved their 7th Fleet into the area to prevent Taiwan’s liberation by the PLA. For the later thirty years, US imperialism had close diplomatic relations with Taipei.
In 1979, however, the US broke diplomatic relations with Taipei to begin normal relations with Beijing under guidelines of the One China policy. Taiwan, however, continued to form part of a close working relationship with both Washington and the Pentagon. The US used an ambiguous definition of the One China policy to enable 'close unofficial relations with Taiwan'. (1) The close relations have now been boosted by the Trump administration in Washington which seeks to counter the rise of China with classic new Cold War positions.
The moves herald a shift toward more hawkish diplomatic positions directed at China after the softer diplomacy of the President Obama period which was marked by 'the US to lead by example and by creating international alliances'. (2) The period carried with it the 'promise of a less aggressive American foreign policy' despite the reopening of numerous military bases and other facilities across the region. (3)
The US recently opened a new American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), for example, modelled on usual diplomatic missions with nearly five hundred diplomatic staff on temporary leave from the State Department. (4) Official media releases about the opening of the AIT facilities also included reference to the 'de facto US Ambassador Kin Moy', who addressed President Tsai Ing-wen with the statement, 'I offer you this building, a tangible symbol that the US is here to stay'. (5) The Trump administration then approved US$1.4 billion in arms sales to Taiwan.
The Pentagon for some years been 'particularly concerned about the growing imbalance of power across the Taiwan Strait'. (6) The rapid rise of China has been regarded by the US as a threat to traditional hegemonic positions. In response, the US imperialists have sought to encircle and contain Chinese influence both in the region and elsewhere.
The recent developments in Taiwan are particularly interesting when studied in the context of full implementation of Pentagon planning from the previous period of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the Global Transformation of Defence and Security (GTDS). The military planning included Japan being transformed from a client state to fully-fledged regional hub for northern 'US interests' with Australia as a southern counterpart. Other countries within the close proximity of the two hubs were subsequently linked through Tokyo and Canberra to coordinate regional defence and security provision through a vast matrix of various component parts. The two main hubs were also closely linked to the Pentagon in a real-time triangular relationship to formalise US control of regional foreign policy.
Recent developments in Taiwan appear to have formal and direct links with Japan. As Japan has extended its regional reach during the last five years, from limited self-defence to 'allowing it to act when the US or countries US forces are defending are threatened', US involvement in Taiwan has increased. (7) What proportion of the nearly five hundred US diplomatic staff based in Taiwan are part of a similar five-year US intelligence operation remains, as yet, to be established. Official media releases do, however, clarify recent initiatives between Taiwan and Japan include 'bolstering maritime security', with military planning to formalise 'intelligence-sharing'. (8)
Toward the end of 2012, when the final stages of the GTDS were being formulated and implemented, the US Defence Department issued an official media release announcing military planning for 'hundreds of additional spies overseas' in a project 'transforming the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA)'. (9) The military planning was to 'be driven over a five year period by the deployment of a new generation of clandestine operatives'. (10)
Historically, most US foreign intelligence was conducted by the CIA, not the DIA From numerous declassified documents it is possible to identify those targeted and the methods of intelligence collection. The US Army Foreign Intelligence Assistance Program, for example, specialised in the coordinated counter-intelligence activities worldwide against 'those who oppose the US Defence Department, during peacetime and all levels of conflict'. (11) The standard method of operation was through the official channels of the host country including the Police, and infiltration of agents into as many organisations as practically possible. The recruitment of agents, however, was to later raise serious considerations for the US.
Following the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the US-led so-called New World Order the US intelligences services purged itself of many agents who proved an embarrassment. Criminals, for example, had in some cases been recruited, together with others having 'sordid records'. It was eventually acknowledged the 'CIA seemed to specialise in hiring murderous thugs and military officers'. (12) Many of those dismissed were later regarded as incompetent and questions were raised about the actual value of the intelligence they had provided, with official reference to 'an ethical vacuum' and the 'bad habits of the Cold War'. (13) The type of intelligence those agents collected was from a civilian population and used to establish profiles and assessments.
Many of the former declassified manuals now, however, appear to have been consulted and reused for the new Cold War. (14)
Military Intelligence, such as the new DIA operatives, are concerned primarily with military assessments and establishing the balance of forces of adversaries. Their role is to provide reports for military planners. While the new DIA operatives have been trained by the CIA and often work with the US Joint Special Operations Command, they 'will get their spying assignments from the Department of Defence'. (15) It was noted in the media release that an area of specific concern for the US was the 'military modernisation under way in China'. (16) It was also further noted 'the DIA has long played a major role in assessing and identifying targets for US forces'. (17)
With Taiwan so close to China there would appear little ambiguity about the role of the US and their GTDS system; about 50,000 US troops are based in nearby Japan 'under a security treaty alliance'. (18) The US-led initiatives toward Taiwan, therefore, provide further evidence of the wave of militarism sweeping across the Asia-Pacific region. The US are preparing for real-war scenarios in the Asia-Pacific region.
It is, however, a recent political initiative from Taipei, at the behest of the US, which has raised further serious considerations. The US appears to be pushing Taiwan into a front-line position with their struggle to challenge China, following the election of Tsai Ing-wen, their favoured candidate for the presidency in 2016. Since the elections 'relations between Beijing and Taipei have deteriorated' largely due to the government position of rejecting 'Taiwan and China are part of one country'. (19)
US foreign policy initiatives toward Taiwan appear oblivious to the fact that only eighteen countries now recognise Taipei as an independent entity for official diplomacy; the vast majority of countries at United Nations level accept the One China policy and recognise Beijing. Taiwanese government international relations policies and unofficial diplomacy have therefore raised controversy as an attempt to undermine traditional and accepted norms of diplomacy.
The present Taiwanese government of President Tsai Ing-wen recently launched their 'New Southbound Policy' (NSP), planned to 'forge deeper ties with south-east Asian neighbours and beyond', as a form of unofficial diplomacy. (20) It has already been noted 'the scope of the policy is broad', it is already operational. (21)
What the real reason, therefore, for a low-key visit to Canberra by Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela of the Solomon Islands mid-June where a high-level diplomatic meeting took place with PM Malcolm Turnbull, has not been officially clarified. (22) The timing, however, is significant. The Solomon Islands forms a strategic part of the Defence of Australia military plan and is also one of the six countries in the region with diplomatic links with Taipei as opposed to Beijing.
The Taiwanese government has also used its NSP to enter into dialogue within sensitive areas including the corridors of power of various countries across the region. 'Taiwanese officials', for example, have been able to participate in 'regional dialogues on the Indo-Pacific organised by think-tanks', with influence into decision-making circles. (23)
The stated organisation range of the Taiwanese government NSP 'with emphasis on the Indo-Pacific region', have also revealed two direct links into US regional foreign policy objectives. (24)
A recent statement from AIT chairman, James Moriarty noted 'democratic Taiwan' was a 'model for the Indo-Pacific region', despite the legacy of a highly repressive past. (25) Secondly, the boundaries for chosen political operations were defined by the US renaming their Pacific Command Headquarters in Hawaii, the US Indo-Pacific Command on 30 May. (26)
There has been little ambiguity in the position of US military planning: recent official Defence Department media releases note the changed command was a push by the US to challenge China in the wider region'. (27) It was further noted the changed command position was intended to show the increased significance of 'India to the Pentagon', with joint US-India diplomacy planned to 'counter the growing maritime assertiveness of China', showing military planning for the so-called Quad where India has also been included within the triangular GTDS well under-way. (28)
As a further wave of US-led militarism sweeps the Asia-Pacific region it is important to note the recent appointment of Andrew Shearer to deputy director-general of the Office of National Assessments (ONA). The elite body presides over other Australian intelligence agencies and provides 'analysis of international, political, strategic and economic developments to government'. (29) Shearer, in a previous capacity was former national security advisor to former Coalition PM's John Howard and Tony Abbott, during periods when the GTDS was being planned and implemented. It should therefore come as no surprise to note the career pathway chosen for Shearer also included a more recent position as a senior advisor to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington where he appears to have specialised in addressing what he regards as 'Chinese government interference in western democracies', a classic Cold War position. (30)
Shearer is no apologist for the worst-case scenarios of Australian involvement in the alliance with the US: he is also noted for holding the position that 'Australia could not avoid being implicated in a major conflict involving the US in Asia. The idea Australia could somehow stand aside from a major conflict in the Asia-Pacific region that involved the US is fanciful'. (31)
The sooner ordinary, sensible working people get rid of these war-mongering clowns and formulate an independent Australian foreign policy, the better!
1. Beijing keeps a wary eye on new US Taipei outpost, Australian, 18 June 2018.
2. US signals foreign policy shift away from military might, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 6 June 2014.
3. Ibid., and, US eyes return to south-east Asian bases, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 29 June 2012; and, US signs defence deal in Asia, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 2 May 2014.
4. Australian, op.cit., 18 June 2018.
6. U.S. Seeks New Asia Defences, Wall Street Journal, Friday-Sunday, 24-26 August 2012.
7. Japan to extend military reach beyond self-defence, Age (Melbourne), 29 April 2015.
8. Australian, op.cit., 18 June 2018.
9. Pentagon plays the spy game, Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 7 December 2012.
11. Website: Army Foreign Intelligence Assistance Program, Army Regulation 381-20, Part 1.5, Mission and Policy, page 1.
12. The CIA cleanses itself, New York Times, 4 March 1997.
14. US army gets grip again on jungle warfare, Weekend Australian, 18-19 March 2017.
15. Guardian Weekly, op.cit., 7 December 2012.
18. Japan unifies army for first time since WW2 to counter China, Australian, 6 April 2018.
19. Chinese flex naval muscle off Taiwan, Australian, 19 April 2018.
20. Australian, op.cit., 18 June 2018.
22. Pacific pressured to cut ties with Taiwan, Australian, 14 June 2018.
23. Australian, op.cit., 18 June 2018.
26. The Pentagon's Indo-Pacific Command, Sputnik News, 8 June 2018.
27. Website: Your Military, Indo-PACOM.
28. In symbolic nod to India, Reuters, 31 May 2018.
29. Key intel role for China hawk, Australian, 15 June 2018.