Freedom of navigation | Opinion
Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe recently reiterated, in the strongest language, China’s will to fight to prevent any progress towards Taiwan independence. Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore at a major gathering of Asian defense chiefs, he warned that “(if) anyone dares to secede from Taiwan from China, we will not hesitate to fight. We will fight at all costs. And we will fight until the end. He then added, “It’s the only choice for China.”
Well not really. Another choice for a peace-loving world power, the world’s second largest economy and the most populous nation with a lot of territory, would be to allow the people of Taiwan to choose whether they want to remain independent with a democratically elected government. or live under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party. He would accept the right of a free people to choose their own leaders and for the self-governing island, officially known as the Republic of China (ROC) and which has never been under communist rule, to live in peace in as a neighbor and business partner. .
By unequivocally affirming Beijing’s intention to fight until the end, at all costs, to prevent this from happening, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) clarifies its intentions regarding the future of Taiwan as opposed to the Washington policy of strategic ambiguity which hopefully is not another name for any policy at all. It was disappointing to hear US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin state at the same conference that the United States did not support Taiwan independence. It may be official policy, but the United States has traditionally championed the right of peoples to democratically choose their leaders. He, for example, granted independence to his former territory, now the Republic of the Philippines, and also offered this option to Puerto Rico. He also returned the Panama Canal Zone to Panama.
Mr. Austin criticized the PRC for its recent aggressive behavior and assured attendees that America was not seeking conflict in the region or a new Cold War. Nor do we seek, he said, the creation of an “Asian NATO or a region divided by hostile blocs”. Accusations of aggressive behavior prompted a strong reaction from the PRC’s Wei who strongly rejected US complaints about China’s actions in the region and said it is the United States that is pushing for confrontation and seek to encircle China. Given the small size of our navy, one wonders what we would use to encircle China, even if that were our intention.
Speaking of aggressive behavior, Chinese officials recently asserted that the Taiwan Strait is not international waters, contrary to the US interpretation of international law and the long-established right of innocent passage, even by warships. , as long as they do not loiter or conduct military operations during transit. The United States and other nations frequently send warships through the strait in Freedom of Navigation (FON) exercises that invariably result in warnings from the PRC. These claims by Beijing have reportedly raised concern within the Biden administration. They should. We must be prepared for whatever may become necessary to defend freedom of navigation and protect maritime commerce in the Western Pacific and elsewhere. Our economy depends on it.
The Biden administration must realize that China’s growing aggression, its trade policies, its growing global influence and presence, and the militarization of the South China Sea, through which more than half of the world’s sea freight passes daily, pose an existential threat to America as an Indo-Pacific power with distant vital interests that requires a very large navy to protect. Ours is simply not of a sufficient size for this mission and we have to deal with the long and expensive process of building it. This will require expanding our industrial base to be able to build more and better ships. To paraphrase Amity Police Chief Martin Brody’s classic line in “Jaws,” “We’re going to need a bigger fleet.”
The Taiwan government also agrees that the Taiwan Strait that separates the island from the mainland is an international waterway and supports our Navy’s FON transits. Taipei rejects PRC claims of sovereignty over the strait that its Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou called a “sophism”.
With inflation raging and consumer confidence waning, we are almost certainly headed for a recession. For the few of us old enough to remember the hard times of the Great Depression, we remember the hollow army that resulted from insufficient funding and neglect even as the clouds storms of war were gathering. We also recall that it was the resulting mobilization for World War II that not only allowed the Allied Powers to prevail, but also lifted the country from the depths of the Great Depression. This is no reason to promote war, of course, but rebuilding our army, and especially the navy, is not only essential for our future if we are to remain a 3-ocean power, but would require the restoration of our industrial base which be very good for the economy.
FLIGHT. 112, NO. June 25 – 22, 2022