Written by Elizabeth Freund Larus. In his April 2021 Foreign Affairs article “Washington Is Avoiding the Tough Questions on Taiwan and China,” international relations scholar Charles Glaser asks whether it is time for the United States to relinquish maritime hegemony in the Asia-Pacific. He concludes that Washington should retrench those areas that would be unacceptably costly in terms of lives and treasure to defend. One of those places is Taiwan. This determination method is reminiscent of Dean Acheson’s 1950 “perimeter speech.” He excluded South Korea and Taiwan from the US defensive perimeter in East Asia in the early years of the Cold War. Stalin and Mao were watching, and we know how the story on the Korean peninsula ended.
Written by Jacques deLisle. The Economist recently declared Taiwan “the most dangerous place on earth.” Indeed, it seems that although there have been the crises in the 1950s (when China’s military targeted offshore islands controlled by Taiwan), and also the missile crisis of the mid-1990s—when Beijing sought to deter Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui and Taiwanese voters from “pro-independence” moves—Taiwan again has become a focal point of potential conflict between the United States and China. The circumstances and, therefore, the dangers, however, are different than they were a quarter-century ago or during the early days of the Cold War.
Written by T.Y. Wang. Taiwan Strait has been widely viewed as a dangerous flashpoint for conflict. The popular Economist magazine recently characterised it as “the most dangerous place on earth” that could lead to a direct military conflict between the United States and China. During the past several decades, Washington’s policy of strategic ambiguity has worked remarkably well for maintaining peace and stability between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. A debate is underway if Washington should change its long-standing ambiguous approach by making a more explicit commitment to Taiwan security. Why is there a call for clarity? What is the logic behind Washington’s policy of strategic ambiguity? And is there a need for adjustment?
Written by J. Michael Cole. A recent cover story in The Economist referring to the Taiwan Strait as “the most dangerous place on earth” has caused mixed reactions in Taiwan and elsewhere. While the headline was certainly alarmist—one can imagine more dangerous places than Taiwan to be in, from Yemen to Afghanistan, Somalia to some neighbourhoods in Mexico, for example—the article nevertheless reflects the reality that no other geopolitical flashpoint today is as likely to spark major armed conflict than the Taiwan Strait. China has shown much greater hostility in the past year.
Written by David Michael Jaffe. Space Force. Space Operations Squadron. Strategic Support Force. These are the entities, all created within the last five years, responsible for shaping the future of military space operations in the United States, Japan, and the People’s Republic of China, respectively. Russia, too, calls its military’s outer space division the “Space Force.” Meanwhile, South Korea – while it has yet to name a new division formally – recently launched a military satellite aboard a SpaceX rocket in Florida and plans to launch a military satellite from its own soil in the next few years. Australia has already launched satellites from its own soil. Members of the country’s Defence Science and Technology Group are considering launching their own military satellite and advocating for creating their own space force. It is no secret that North Korea also has ambitions to engage in the military space arena.
Written by Michael Mazza. The new Biden administration will have its hands full from day one. Even as it focuses its energy on finally getting a handle on the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration will have to recalibrate its China policy, making numerous decisions about which aspects of the Trump administration’s approach to keep and which to jettison. Beyond China, it will have to meaningfully strengthen alliances and security partnerships worldwide, make a decision about how best to rein in Iran’s nuclear program going forward, and work quickly to preserve (or not) the New START arms control agreement with Russia. Taiwan policy, on the other hand, should not require significant deliberation in the early going.
Insights from Elizabeth Freund Larus by Mercy A. Kuo. Trans-Pacific View author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Elizabeth Freund Larus – chairman of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Mary Washington and author of “US President Obama’s China Policy: A Critical Assessment” – is the 241st in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”
Written by Bill Sharp. The Trump administration has signed into law a number of pieces of legislation that reduce the traditional strategic ambiguity colouring the US commitment to the defence of Taiwan.
Written by Corey Lee Bell. The Overall Defence Concept (OCD), which was first outlined in 2017 by Taiwan’s revered former Chief of General Staff, Admiral Lee Hsi-ming, represented a paradigmatic shift in Taiwan’s approach to its defence. Many foreign analysts felt it marked a watershed moment in which the island’s leaders had finally cast aside national pride, and embraced an approach to Taiwan’s defence that belatedly acknowledged what they had been saying for years – that the balance of power across the Taiwan Strait had well and truly shifted in China’s favour.