Be on Guard: Dangerous Signals Sent by US-Taiwanese Cooperation on Missile Defense

According a report on the U.S. site Defense News, U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes inserted a provision into the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act requiring that the Missile Defense Agency research the benefits, costs and security requirements of integrating Taiwan’s early warning radar into U.S. missile defense early warning systems, and that the agency report its findings by October of this year.

The aforementioned early warning radar system, “PAVE PAWS” phased array radar, was put into service in Hsinchu City, Taiwan in 2013 and is capable of simultaneously tracking upward of 1,000 targets over a reconnaissance range exceeding 3,000 kilometers, covering Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and other areas deep within the Chinese mainland. Forbes’ proposition illustrates that there exist forces within the U.S. intent upon incorporating Taiwan into the U.S.-led Asia-Pacific missile defense system.

In recent years, the U.S. has repeatedly used the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula as a pretense to forward the construction of that system, deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in Guam and a second long-range missile defense radar system in southern Japan, as well as making plans for early warning radar in the Philippines. And not long ago, the U.S. once more gave the green light for Japan to lift restrictions on arms exports, sweeping away the final obstacle preventing enhanced cooperation on missile defense between the two countries.

The U.S. has always claimed that its deployments with regard to Asia-Pacific missile defense are designed as a response to the nuclear threat from North Korea, and are not directed against China. But one cannot help but ask why the U.S. is unwilling to fundamentally resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through diplomatic negotiation and why it has set unreasonable preconditions for reopening six-party talks while holding a series of provocative large-scale military exercises. If this is all meant to deal with the so-called North Korean threat, then what need is there to incorporate the Philippines, Australia and other countries into the early warning system? Quite obviously, the U.S. has bigger fish to fry.

There can be no doubt that Forbes’ proposal is but another footnote being tacked onto the true intentions of the U.S. in its Asia-Pacific missile defense. It demonstrates that some Americans still view Taiwan as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” and vainly hope to absorb it into the U.S. war machine, making Taiwan into a bridgehead for integrated air and sea combat, and thereby achieve its less-than-honorable objectives of hindering the development of cross-strait relations and completing the strategic envelopment of China. Although Forbes’ proposal only represents his personal views and has not yet been approved and made policy, it sends an extremely dangerous signal.

As all are aware, the question of missile defense affects the strategic stability of the globe and strategic mutual trust between powers. Playing with Cold War-esque military alliances and building missile defense systems runs wholly counter to efforts to establish a new model of great power relations between the U.S. and China, and is detrimental to the establishment of a more tolerant security order in Asia and the Pacific. Consequently, China has always been opposed to the furthering of missile defense by certain states in the region, and the incorporation of Taiwan into the Asia-Pacific missile defense system stands even closer to a dangerous red line. The nations involved, including the U.S., should tread carefully, lest they end up shooting themselves in the foot.

The author is an observer of international issues.

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