Official Cites Importance of Stability in Taiwan Strait
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2011 The United States remains committed to Taiwan and to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, a Pentagon official told the House Foreign Affairs Committee today.
“Stability in the Taiwan Strait is critically important to the Obama administration, and has a strong bearing on our enduring interests in and commitments to peace and stability in the Asian-Pacific region,” said Peter Lavoy, principal assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs.
“The Obama administration is firmly committed to our ‘One China’ policy, which is based on three joint U.S.-China communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act,” he added.
The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 has governed policy in the absence of a diplomatic relationship or a defense treaty with Taiwan. Additionally, key statements that guide policy are the three U.S.-China Joint Communiqués of 1972, 1979 and 1982 and the “Six Assurances” of 1982.
“This policy has endured for over three decades and across eight administrations,” Lavoy noted. “Today, the United States has a deep security relationship with Taiwan, as indicated by the administration’s strong record on arms sales.”
Congress has approved more than $12 billon in defense aid for Taiwan in the last two years, Lavoy said. “We will continue to make available to Taiwan defense articles and services to enable it to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability,” he told the panel.
Lavoy said the administration’s relationship with Taiwan “encompasses much more than arms transfers.”
“The Department of Defense has a responsibility to monitor China’s military developments and to deter aggression and conflict,” he said, noting that China’s armed forces have made significant advances in technology and strategic ability.
“China’s economic rise has enabled it to transform its armed forces from a mass army designed for wars of attrition on its own territory to one capable of fighting short-duration, high-intensity conflict along its periphery against high-tech adversaries,” he said.
China’s ability to sustain military power at a distance remains limited, he said, but its armed forces are developing and fielding advanced military technologies to support attacks and anti-access and aerial denial strategies. China also has positioned advanced equipment opposite Taiwan’s military regions, Lavoy said.
“Beijing fields advanced surface combatants and submarines to increase its anti-surface and anti-warfare capabilities,” he said. “Similarly, advanced fighter aircraft and integrated air defense systems deployed to bases and garrisons in the coastal regions increase Beijing’s ability to gain and maintain air superiority over the Taiwan Strait.”
These systems would enable China to conduct offensive counter-air and land attacks against Taiwanese forces and critical infrastructure, he explained.
“In response to this growing threat, Taiwan authorities have undertaken a series of reforms designed to improve the island’s capacity to deter and defend against an attack by the mainland,” he said.
Pointing to investments in infrastructure, war reserve, crisis response and other reforms, Lavoy said these improvements would help to secure the island.
“[These reforms] have reinforced the natural advantages of island defense,” he said. “Taiwan’s defense reforms today are important and necessary, and further efforts are needed.”
Lavoy referred to the Taiwan Relations Act as “a good law that makes for good policy,” and said it has created the conditions for the two sides to engage in peaceful dialogue.
“Our strong security commitment to Taiwan has provided them the confidence to intensify dialogue with the mainland and has resulted in improved cross-strait relations,” he said. “A Taiwan that is strong, confident and free from threats or intimidation is best postured to discuss and adhere to whatever future arrangements the two sides of the Taiwan Strait may peacefully agree upon.”