Taiwan Must Contribute to Regional Peace and Security

In an interview with Washington Times published June 5, an official delegation from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs contends that President Ma Ying-jeou faces rising domestic resistance against the expansion of a long-range radar system, deployed on the country’s western coast to guard against the threat of Chinese missiles, and its possible integration into a U.S. missile defense network.

In fact, there has been no such domestic pressure.  As the largest opposition party in Taiwan, the DPP has been fully supportive of the early warning radar project since its inception, and has also consistently advocated greater defense coordination with the United States.  Furthermore, the DPP has called on President Ma to increase the investment of resources in national security, which has been in steady decline over the past 6 years—despite the fact that, as confirmed by the DOD’s annual report on Chinese military capabilities released last week, Taiwan remains the primary target of the PLA’s continued expansion.

As Taiwan seeks to forge a positive relationship with the PRC, it must nevertheless maintain a robust self-defense capability to ensure peace and deter invasion, as well as to assist in the defense of friends and supporters in whatever way possible.  It is therefore disappointing to see diplomatic officials deflecting responsibility abroad for the Ma administration’s weak record on defense with vague assertions about domestic opposition—and even more so when such assertions do not accord with widespread public perceptions in Taiwan.

Recent polling indicates that 60.6% of Taiwan’s electorate disapproves of the Ma administration’s handling of national defense.  The DPP has undertaken a comprehensive policy review process focused on strengthening Taiwan’s security, beginning with a commitment to raise defense spending to 3% of GDP, as President Ma pledged to do when he assumed office in 2008.  If we fail to keep our own promises, we cannot expect other countries to come to our aid.

At a time when Taiwan’s friends in the U.S. Congress and defense community are seeking to integrate Taiwan into the regional security architecture, we must unequivocally signal our willingness to not only shoulder the responsibility for our own self-defense, but also serve as a net contributor to the maintenance of peace and stability in the Asian Pacific region.