Academic journal article Asian Perspective

Commentary: Possible Variables for Establishing a Military Confidence-Building Mechanism across the Taiwan Strait

Academic journal article Asian Perspective

Commentary: Possible Variables for Establishing a Military Confidence-Building Mechanism across the Taiwan Strait

Article excerpt

ON JANUARY 14, 2012, INCUMBENT PRESIDENT MA YING-JEOU OF THE Kuomintang (KMT, or Nationalist Party) on Taiwan was re elected. As President Ma embarks on his second term, the question of whether he will negotiate and sign a military mutual confidencebuilding mechanism with mainland China has become an issue of concern for the public on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The issue also has potential regional security implications. In recent years, the leaders of Taiwan and mainland China have often expressed goodwill and proposed a number of critical initiatives that would bring about a new dawn in cross-strait relations. These initiatives include the signing of peace agreements as well as negotiations on a military mutual confidence-building mechanism. Nonetheless, many difficulties must be overcome to achieve what the two sides envision.

We examine these issues from the perspective of the leaders of the respective nations by presenting four variables that could potentially influence the progress of discussion. Leaders need to understand the potential outcomes in advance so as to formulate strategies to counter a negative turn of events that could derail the initiatives. If they can do so, the strategic objective of a win-win situation may be fully accomplished, ensuring the preservation of lasting peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.

The Taiwan-China Relationship

Taiwan is an important democratic country in Asia, having twice undergone political party turnover. However, it has long been subjected to military threats from mainland China. The People's Republic of China (PRC) has currently deployed no fewer than 490 combat aircraftalong the perimeter of the Taiwan Strait as well as 1,200 short-range ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. These weapons pose a grave security threat to Taiwan. On May 20, 2008, President Ma took office and actively embarked on peace dialogues with the PRC. The governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, riding on the "1992 Consensus,"1 began cooperating and have agreed on a range of economic development measures.

The past three years have been marked by common embrace of a philosophy of "peaceful development, coexistence, and mutual prosperity." Both sides have accelerated their development through economic cooperation, signing fifteen important agreements as well as completing the cross-strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA). The number of tourists from China to Taiwan in 2010 exceeded 1.63 million, bringing the tourism industry an economic gain of more than 70 billion New Taiwan dollars. At the end of June 2011 the Taiwan government announced the deregulation of travel by mainland tourists, enabling them to visit Taiwan and witness its free, democratic, open, and diverse society. Moreover, the number of direct flights between Taiwan and China has reached 370 per week and is expected to gradually increase to 500 a week in the future. These facts are tangible proof of the benefits resulting from cross-strait economic cooperation and peaceful development.

Despite these improvements in economic relations, military relations have not seen any improvement, and Taiwan's national defense mobilization cannot be complacent for even a single day (Ministry of National Defense 2011). Since the KMT defeated the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the 2008 presidential elections, it has been actively working to improve the tense political relationship with mainland China, increasing the hope of peace across the Taiwan Strait. However, neither Taiwan nor the PRC can move toward signing a peace agreement or installing a military mutual-trust mechanism so long as the People's Liberation Army still threatens Taiwan. Determining the means to dismantle the missiles aimed at Taiwan and implement cross-strait mechanisms to build mutual confidence remains a major challenge that national leaders of both sides need to confront.

The Current Cross-Strait Consensus on Peaceful Development

During the rule of the DPP from 2000 to 2008, mutual trust between the Beijing and Taiwanese governments was completely lacking, with no communication between the leaders. …

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