Top White House Asia officials have warned that any announcement by the United States protecting Taiwan from a Chinese attack would carry “significant degradation.”
For decades, Washington has maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” regarding Taiwan, which was designed Discourage Taipei From taking military action to occupy the country to declaring independence and China. Beijing has claimed democratic Taiwan as its sovereign territory.
Some experts have called for a shift to “strategic clarity” Clear near Beijing The United States will defend Taiwan. But White House Asia Czar Kurt Campbell says there is a risk of such a change.
“There are some significant downsides. . . Strategic transparency, ”he told the Financial Times Global Boardroom Conference On tuesday.
“The best way to maintain peace and stability is through a truly unified message that involves diplomacy, defense innovation and our own capabilities to the Chinese leadership, so they don’t think of some ambitious, dangerous provocative action in the future.” ”
Of China Offensive military activity And the growing defense warrants a strong message from Washington, some analysts argue. Others, however, claim that the reaction could trigger an unintended outcome. China has warned the United States against crossing a “red line” over Taiwan.
National Intelligence Director Avril Haynes recently said China would view a policy change as “deeply unstable.” “This will reinforce Chinese thinking that China, including the US military, is determined to prevent the rise, and that Beijing will aggressively undermine US global interests,” he said.
But David Sacks, an associate at the Council on Foreign Relations, said there was a “significant loss of strategic ambiguity” that was created at a time when China was unable to attack Taiwan militarily.
“U.S. policy must recognize that deterrence is eroding and that it must adapt to China’s growing power.” “China’s actions in Hong Kong show that Western criticism and sanctions are not enough to shape its behavior. Strategic clarity can inform China of the importance with which we accept the question of Taiwan’s future. “
Concerns like China have grown even more More warplanes flew In the past year, Taiwan’s air defense has become an almost identical routine activity. Last month, the People’s Liberation Army sent a record 25 military aircraft to the southwest corner of Taiwan’s ADIZ.
Analysts say the goal of the flight was to intimidate Taipei and exhaust its air force, forcing the jets to shut down in response.
In his final congressional appearance in March, before retiring as head of U.S. forces in the Indo-Pacific, Philip Davidson said he was concerned that China might Invasion of Taiwan in six years. He added that strategic ambiguity had helped maintain stability for decades, adding that “these issues should be reconsidered regularly.”
A few days later, a senior official told the FT that the administration thought China Flirting with ideas Taking military action.
Asked whether the world should be prepared for a possible conflict with Taiwan, Campbell said the risk mitigation was that China’s military action was an attempt to “turn the screw” on Taiwan.
But Elizabeth Economy of the Hoover Institution think-tank, who spoke on the panel alongside Campbell, said she was increasingly concerned.
“All you can learn from reading Xi Jinping’s speeches and identifying his activities is that there is a strong connection between what he says and what he does,” said the Economist.
“He spoke in support of the US Alliance, but said that maintaining some independence was important for Taiwan. He did not give up the use of force. . . We must take very seriously the threat that he may become overconfident, that his military may be overconfident. “
Ryan Haas, a China expert at the Brookings Institution think-tank, said: . . On top of that, language accuracy has more consequences than Taiwan. “
“Campbell’s reiteration of the long-term policy indicates that steadfastness and resilience will continue to be the order of the day in addressing Taiwan’s issues.” “His comments should limit future freelancing by US officials on Taiwan policy.”
Follow Demetri Sebastopolo on Twitter: @ Dimi