US no longer names foreign troops on Taiwan as trigger for China conflict
The last Pentagon report on the Chinese military has omitted the scenario of foreign troops being deployed to Taiwan from a list of actions that the US Army assessed, could cause a conflict from China.
The development comes amid media reports and statements by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen suggesting that a small contingent of US troops was already present on the self-governing island, sparking the ire of Beijing, which Taiwan claims as part of its territory.
The document, called the “Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China,” was published Wednesday and marks the final installment of an annual series that has been running since 2000, with the sole exception of 2001.
Each year, the assessment has sought to identify China’s red lines across the Taiwan Strait flash point. Last year’s 2020 edition featured seven scenarios: “Taiwan’s formal declaration of independence; Undefined steps towards Taiwan’s independence; Taiwan’s internal turmoil; Taiwan’s acquisition of nuclear weapons; Indeterminate delays in resuming unification dialogue in the Taiwan Strait; Foreign intervention in Taiwan’s internal affairs; and, foreign troops stationed in Taiwan.”
This year, however, the final scenario was dropped, leaving the six other “circumstances in which the People’s Republic of China has historically indicated it is considering the use of force.”
When asked why this particular circumstance was omitted from the latest review, Pentagon Army spokesman Lt. Col. Martin Meiners told me. news week he currently had “nothing to add to what’s in the report.”
“The report speaks for itself,” he added.
The report notes, as in most previous iterations, that the circumstances proving a potential stumbling block to Chinese intervention “have evolved over time.”
The language “Foreign troops stationed in Taiwan” was first introduced in 2009 and has appeared in every report since except 2015, when prospects of Beijing taking action against Taipei were different than in other years.
The scenario describing “undefined steps towards Taiwan’s independence” was first shown in 2006 and the scenario involving “infinite delays” in cross-border ties in 2004. The two rules regarding nuclear weapons and internal unrest premiered in 2002 and the formal declaration of independence and foreign intervention have been seen since the debut report.
China has vowed to reclaim Taiwan, with officials saying they prefer diplomacy but never renounce the use of force.
The island’s sovereignty has been a matter of contention since a civil war ended in 1949 with a Communist victory on the mainland that forced nationalists into exile in Taiwan, where a rival government was formed. International recognition was initially divided, but over the decades diplomatic relations increasingly favored the People’s Republic, and the US finally shifted its relations in 1979.
Since then, however, the US has maintained an unofficial relationship with Taiwan, both through political contacts and military aid. These ties saw a revival under the former president Donald Trump and have continued to tighten up under president Joe Biden, though his administration has vowed to abide by the commitments laid down in the formative agreements reached by Washington and Beijing more than four decades ago.
After Tsai appeared to publicly acknowledge the presence of US troops in Taiwan during an interview with CNN last month, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged the US to abide by these earlier commitments.
“The One-China principle is the political foundation of China-US relations,” Zhao told reporters at the time. “On the Taiwan issue, the US should abide by the One-China principle and the terms of the three joint China-US communiqués, rather than something unilaterally made up of itself.”
He expressed China’s opposition to “official and military ties of any kind between the US and the Taiwan region”, as well as to any “US interference in China’s internal affairs”. He also accused American warships that occasionally pass through the Taiwan Strait of having “strung their muscles” to make provocations and foment problems that sent gravely wrong signals to the ‘Taiwan Independence Forces’ and promote peace and security. stability in the Taiwan Strait.”
“The reunification across the Straits is a predominant historical trend and the right course of action, while ‘Taiwan independence’ is a decline leading to a dead end,” Zhao said.
He then lashed out at Tsai’s Democratic Progress Party, accusing it of taking steps toward independence. Such actions, he argued, “cannot change the ironclad fact that Taiwan is part of China, nor will it shake the international community’s universal and steadfast commitment to the One-China principle.”
“Those who forget their heritage, betray their motherland and try to divide the country will not have a happy ending,” Zhao said. “The search for ‘Taiwan independence’ leads to a dead end. So is supporting ‘Taiwan independence’. No country and no one should underestimate the determination, will and ability of the Chinese people to support their national sovereignty and territorial integrity, otherwise they will be defeated again.”
Despite these warnings, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng recently acknowledged the findings of an article in the local Apple Daily that alleged Taiwanese Marines had trained with US counterparts on the US Pacific island territory of Guam.
In response to this report, Meiners told news week on Tuesday: “I have no comments on specific operations, assignments or training, but I would like to emphasize that our support for and defense relationship with Taiwan remains in line with the current threat from the People’s Republic of China and is consistent with our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act and our One China Policy.”
The US has long been deliberately ambiguous about whether to intervene in a conflict between China and Taiwan. Last month, at a city hall event, Biden said his administration had “a commitment” to do so, but the White House quickly backtracked on the president’s comments, clarifying that “there is no change in our policy.”
This article has been updated until Involving further remark by Pentagon spokesman you.s. Army Lieutenant Colonel Martin Meiners.