Global Taiwan Institute
American Enterprise Institute
Date: December 4, 2019
By: Michael Mazza
On November 22, Taiwan’s United Daily News broke the news that Heino Klinck, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, had visited Taiwan during the week of November 18. The Taipei Times described it as the senior-most visit to Taiwan by a Department of Defense official in over a decade, pointing to a stunning level of American neglect over that period of time. Although the Pentagon and Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) regularly engage at lower levels via a variety of dialogue structures, DASD Klinck and his counterparts surely had much to discuss. American and Taiwan priorities for these discussions may have included some or all of the following.
Righting a Wrong
Although much American attention has been focused on Chinese actions in the South China Sea and East China Sea in recent years (and for good reason), the Taiwan Strait may remain the most dangerous flashpoint in Asia. It is in the Taiwan Strait where what we might call the “core values” of both China and the United States come into direct conflict. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) may see its very survival at stake; at stake for the United States are national security interests that Washington has sought to defend since at least World War II. In the event of a crisis, China likely has far less flexibility to alter its position in the Taiwan Strait than it would in the East or South China seas. Meanwhile, an American president might find that, even in the absence of a formal defense treaty with Taipei (as with Tokyo and others), he or she would be hard pressed to sit out a conflict over Taiwan’s fate.
There are, then, good reasons for American and Taiwan officials to engage at the very highest levels. Taiwan, after all, is a country that the United States might one day go to war to defend. As I have argued in these pages previously, the American president owes it to the American people, not to mention the men and women in uniform under his command, to speak with his or her counterpart in Taipei—for in wartime, it is perhaps no less important to understand one’s allies than to understand one’s enemies. [FULL STORY]