Arm Taiwan—but Skip the Nukes

As the military balance of power shifts in China’s favor, Beijing may be increasingly tempted to act against Taiwan.

Foreign Policy
Date: August 4, 2020
By: Bradley Bowman, Andrea Stricker

Taiwanese sailors salute the island’s flag on the deck of the Panshih supply ship after taking part in annual drills, at the Tsoying naval base in Kaohsiung on January 31, 2018.
Taiwanese troops staged live-fire exercises the day before on January 30 to simulate fending off an attempted invasion, as the island’s main threat China steps up pressure on President Tsai Ing -Wen. / AFP PHOTO / Mandy CHENG (Photo credit should read MANDY CHENG/AFP via Getty Images)

Taiwanese sailors on the deck of a supply ship after taking part in military drills at the Tsoying naval base in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on Jan. 31, 2018. MANDY CHENG/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu warned in late July that mainland China’s military threat to Taiwan is “on the rise.” His warning was echoed by U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who assessed that Beijing has “become more aggressive” toward Taiwan and taken the threat “to a new level.”

In response to Beijing’s increasing bellicosity, there is a growing debate in Washington about various forms of military aid to Taiwan. Some have even suggested that the United States equip Taiwan with nuclear weapons. That would be a provocative mistake, as students of the Cuban missile crisis might predict. Instead, the United States should urgently provide additional conventional military aid to address the dangerous shift in the balance of power across the Taiwan Strait, which if left unchecked could invite aggression by mainland China.

Since 1979, the Taiwan Relations Act has served as the foundation of U.S. policy toward Taiwan. The law unequivocally states that “any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means” would represent “a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area” and be “of grave concern to the United States.”

Peaceful means, however, are not what the Chinese Communist Party seems to have in mind. Not only has Beijing undertaken the most ambitious military modernization effort in the history of the People’s Republic of China, but it has also been using its growing military might to intimidate and coerce Taiwan.    [FULL  STORY]

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