US Will Continue To Maintain Strategic Ambiguity Over Taiwan — Former NATO Commander

The US will, most likely, continue to maintain the “strategic ambiguity” in its relationship with Taiwan, which is at loggerheads with China, former NATO Commander James Stavridis has said.

“Strategic ambiguity” underscores that the possibility of any American military and diplomatic assistance to Taiwan in a potential war between Taiwan and mainland China is deliberately unclear.

“The ‘pros’ are principally that it would hopefully add further deterrence to the Chinese calculus if they knew that the US would conduct combat operations to defend Taiwan. But the ‘cons’ are that it is unclear what the US public would feel about such a strong commitment,” the South China Morning Post quoted the former US Navy admiral as saying.

As of now, there is no agreement on how a potential attack by China against Taiwan should be discouraged. However, the US is hopeful that the uncertainty will force Beijing to stay cautious and dissuade the self-ruled island to declare independence.

Some argue that the US should abandon its policy of strategic ambiguity. The current policy of strategic ambiguity needed a ‘shift’ as it lacked an objective, according to Shirley Kan, an Asian security affairs specialist and advisory board member at the Global Taiwan Institute think tank.

Stavridis even warned of possible cross-strait war, a view he shared with the former US Indo-Pacific commander Philip Davidson.

Chinese military and missile tests ahead of Taiwan’s democratic election in 1996 called for Washington’s intervention, following which the US anchored its aircraft carriers near the Taiwan Strait.

Chinese incursions in and around Taiwan have increased as it has recently conducted amphibious landing exercises in the troubled waters off South China’s Fujian Province, which faces the troubled island.

China commands its control over its breakaway province Taiwan as it strives to attain dominance in the Southeast Asian region. However, Stavridis said, “I hope … they are not ‘prioritizing reunification in the near-term’. But hope is never a good strategy. So the US should prepare for the chance that there might be a move in the five-year future”.

The US, in its latest move, has sent transport aircraft to aid the Taiwanese to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The US is clearly moving closer to Taiwan, and that will manifest in increased advanced weapons sales, better access to intelligence and information, additional cybersecurity, training and exercises, high-level visits and exchanges,” Stavridis said.

The increasing US presence near the Taiwan Strait was the result of China’s growing military aggression against the island. In recent months, China has regularly flown its combat aircraft over the international waters between Taiwan and the Taiwanese-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea, BBC reported.

On April 23, a record number of Chinese aircraft — 25 jets including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers — flew into the Taiwanese air defense zone.

Written Kanika Sachdeva