It looks like the first foreign policy storm of the Trump administration is going to be over Taiwan and the USA’s long-standing “One China” policy – and he isn’t even president yet.
Last week Tsai Ing-wen, the president of Taiwan, called Trump to congratulate him on winning the election. He took the call, which is a pretty normal thing to do, but immediately a whole swarm of state department officials, “China experts” and of course the communist Chinese regime all started throwing their toys out the pram. It turns out that this was the first time a Taiwanese president had spoken to a US one since 1979; there are some friendly, democratically elected foreign leaders you can’t talk to in case aging commies get upset.
Taiwan is the remaining part of pre-communist China – the remains of Chiang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang forces retreated there towards the end of the civil war, in 1949, and made Taipei their new capital. The communists never succeeded in capturing the island, and when the civil war ended the nationalist government continued to be recognized as the legitimate Chinese state. That changed in 1971, when the UN gave in to leftist pressure and recognized the People’s Republic as the sole representative of China; Taiwan, despite being a founder member of the UN, was expelled. Since then, Taiwan’s diplomatic status has been complex.
The Chinese communist regime tends to throw tantrums if anyone officially recognizes Taiwan as an independent country, and they refuse to have diplomatic relations with any country that also has relations with Taiwan. A condition of formal diplomatic relations with China is recognition of their claim to Taiwan. They don’t actually have a claim to Taiwan, because it’s never been part of the People’s Republic, but like many leftists, they tend not to be very adult about things.
This puts the USA in an awkward position. Taiwan has always been pro-western, and since the 1980s, it’s also been a democracy. However, in 1979 President Carter broke off formal relations with Taiwan and established relations with the Chinese communists. Congress retaliated by passing the Taiwan Relations Act, setting the rules for future informal relations. The TRA didn’t mandate formal diplomatic recognition of Taiwan as an independent country, but it did imply that the USA would defend it in case of a Chinese attack.
In reality, a Chinese attack could cause massive damage to Taiwan – the whole country is exposed to short-range ballistic missiles, and even a few thousand SCUD-class weapons with conventional warheads would made a real mess – but an invasion isn’t realistic. The communists have much larger armed forces, but the Taiwanese are better trained and well supplied with modern US aircraft and guided weapons.
Their tank force is a bit older – mostly based on old M48A3s and local upgrades – but 120 M1A1s are on order and deliveries should start next year. Tanks aren’t a high priority, though – Taiwan isn’t good tank country, and in any case, it expects to use naval and air-delivered weapons to sink any Chinese armor before it gets to the beach. Taiwan now operates the US Navy’s old Kidd-class destroyers – they bought all four about ten years ago, and have since upgraded them with locally built sensors and anti-ship missiles. They also have a powerful anti-air capability based on the Standard SM-2 missile, which would make it hard for China to gain air superiority over Taiwan.
Even worse news for the communist air force – Taiwan has a fleet of more than a hundred F-16s, which are now being upgraded to F-15V standard, plus another 130 locally designed F-CK1 lightweight air defense fighters. The F-CK1 was designed in the 1980s when the USA initially refused to sell Taiwan F-20 Tigersharks, then F-16s. It’s evolved into a very useful multi-role aircraft that’s now armed with advanced, locally designed Sky Sword I and II air to air missiles. It has a pretty good air-to-ground capability, too, which is more bad news for any communist marines who end up on a Taiwanese beach.
Taiwan is a wealthy, democratic and reasonably powerful friend in a region that’s not always friendly to western interests. Trump’s decision to take Tsai’s call might have caused uproar among the professional politicians, but it was the right thing to do. Democracies shouldn’t shun other democracies because a bunch of unelected Maoist thugs say so.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.