If There Is Conflict in the Taiwan Strait, Will the US Really Send Troops?

On Feb. 25, a Kuomintang think tank held a symposium, “The Chinese Communist Party’s Military Threat to Taiwan,” in which the following question was discussed: If the CCP takes military action against Taiwan, will U.S. aircraft carriers come to the rescue? Symposium participants retired Gen. Herman Shuai, former Minister of National Defense Andrew Yang and National Policy Foundation Convener Lin Yu-fang offered differing perspectives. However, they all agreed that to get votes, the Democratic Progressive Party administration continues to deceive the public by saying that the U.S. will certainly send troops to help Taiwan when something happens in the Taiwan Strait.

Whether the U.S. will send troops to Taiwan’s aid, and whether Taiwan can defend itself, involves at least three layers of issues.

First, compared with Western Europe and Japan, Taiwan is of little concern to the vital interests of the U.S; at best, it is of only marginal interest.

Ordinarily, U.S. officials can boast about Taiwan’s being a beacon of Asian democracy. Taiwan is also a critical piece of America’s supply chain. However, when the crucial moment comes to send troops to Taiwan’s aid, the U.S. might just consider otherwise, similar to how, in the past, it abandoned its comrades in arms, the South Vietnam government and the Kurds.

Still, for a long time, DPP administrations, from Chen Shui-bian to Tsai Ing-wen, have told the Taiwanese people, “Don’t worry! If something happens in Taiwan, the U.S. will certainly come.”

Second, polls conducted in both Taiwan and the U.S. on whether the U.S. will send troops to the Taiwan Strait if something happens reveal great differences. Polls in Taiwan indicate that more than 70% of Taiwanese believe the U.S. will come to Taiwan’s defense. Polls conducted over the years in the U.S., however, indicate that only 30% to 40% of Americans support U.S. involvement in disputes in the Taiwan Strait. Still, the DPP administration has never told the Taiwanese what the American people really think.

Third, regarding whether the Taiwanese are ready to fight to protect Taiwan, public opinion polls conducted by DPP-backed organizations and those by other polling organizations differ greatly. According to polls conducted by the DPP, approximately 70% of Taiwanese people are willing to fight to protect Taiwan. However, polls conducted by other organizations indicate that number is only 30% to 40%; if the question is changed to, “Are you willing to fight for Taiwan independence?” the numbers are even lower.

In a 2004 interview by the Taiwan Public Television Service, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was asked whether the Taiwan Relations Act requires the U.S. to send troops to aid Taiwan when the CCP attacks. He replied that, of course it doesn’t, particularly if Taiwan is the provocateur.

From last year until the beginning of this year, respective reports from the Council on Foreign Relations, Voice of America and United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission — three reports with international weight — have said that the situation in the Taiwan Strait is grim and the risk of conflict has increased. This is why in last year’s National Day address and this year’s New Year’s Day statement, Lunar New Year’s Eve remarks and arrangements with national security personnel, Tsai Ing-wen has endeavored to express goodwill across the strait and extend an olive branch. Of course, this is also why U.S. pressure to promote talks has increased.

DPP supporters may not listen to KMT think tank scholars and experts. Still, the words of Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu in an interview on National Public Radio last September should be evidence enough. He clearly made the following pledge at the request of the Americans: Taiwan currently is not seeking to establish full diplomatic relations with the U.S. Even in a conflict in the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan will also not rely on U.S. intervention.

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