Duplantier reporting Behind The Headlines

Week of:
May 20, 2001
America's Future in a Pacific Century


by: F.R. Duplantier

"As the U.S. crafts its China policy, Taiwan and mis- sile defense are the issues that now pose the most vexing challenges."

"Do present disagreements between China and the United States indicate that China is determined to challenge American interests and will become more dangerous as its power grows?" asks Avery Goldstein of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. "Or do they instead reflect China's concern with ensuring its own vital interests in the face of what it sees as U.S. efforts to limit its legitimate international influence?" Acknowledging that "it is difficult to anticipate capabilities and assess intentions," he suggests that "a prudent U.S. China policy would manage rather than exacerbate current problems, avoid creating new problems that can be anticipated, and hedge against the possibility that some problems may prove intractable."

Goldstein contends that "the two most challenging issues on the bilateral agenda for the immediate future will be Taiwan and missile defense." With regard to the former, he recommends "policies that are likely to discourage the mainland from using force to seize Taiwan or . . . as part of an attempt to dictate terms of reunification. American policies must also discourage Taiwan from provoking a military reaction from the mainland, whether through reckless steps toward independence, more subtle efforts to establish de facto statehood, or continued rejection of even reasonable conditions for resuming an official cross-strait dialogue." Goldstein says "the United States needs to maintain the present belief among leaders in Beijing that American intervention in response to the unprovoked use of military force by China is nearly certain, and the belief among leaders in Taipei that American intervention in response to Chinese military action that Taiwan provokes cannot be presumed."

Goldstein advises the Bush Administration to "anticipate a rocky road as it moves ahead with development and deployment of antimissile systems. The United States has to decide whether their plausible security benefits outweigh their likely costs, which," he points out, "include increased tensions with China and a possible ripple effect in South Asia if India decides it must compete with the more rapid growth of China's arsenal that missile defenses will encourage."

Turning his attention to other key areas of the Far East, Goldstein reports that "the U.S. seems poised to prod Japan to move further toward collective defense. This prodding," he notes, "may go beyond the familiar refrain about financial burden sharing . . . to the stickier issues of weapons deployment, contingency planning, and military exercises that could ultimately transform the U.S.-Japan alliance into a genuine partnership along the lines of NATO."

Goldstein sees "an unexpectedly complex challenge in Korea. Prior to 2000, the threat of North Korean ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction provided a clear argument for strengthening U.S. alliances in the region, and especially for pursuing both theater and national missile defense," he recalls. "However, as a result of South Korean President Kim Dae-jung's 'sunshine diplomacy,' the efforts of former Defense Secretary William Perry, and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il's own diplomatic initiatives, the North Korean threat appears to have diminished -- and with it the stated reason for missile defenses."