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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Partners can help over-stretched US

Partners can help over-stretched US

The US and other countries should take concrete steps to confront the threats from Beijing to avoid war, US Representative Mario Diaz-Balart said in an interview with Voice of America on March 13.

The US should use “every diplomatic economic tool at our disposal to treat China as what it is... to avoid war,” Diaz-Balart said.

Giving an example of what the US could do, he said that it has to be more aggressive in its military sales to Taiwan.

Actions by cross-party US lawmakers in the past few years such as meeting with Taiwanese officials in Washington and Taipei, and passing bills facilitating arms sales to Taiwan demonstrate that the US government is keen to aid Taiwan’s defense. However, the US is facing conflicts on several fronts, such as the Houthis’ attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, Russia’s ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine, Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, North Korea’s long-range missile launches that threaten to destabilize the Korean Peninsula and China’s continuous acts of aggression in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.

The plurality of these zones with high tension or conflict means that US production is unable to keep up with demand for missile systems and other weapons. A win-win step for Washington would be to collaborate with Taiwanese contractors to build missiles and other weapons systems for regional use. Japan is making Patriot missiles, while Harpoon and Sidewinder missile systems are built in the US by McDonnell Douglas and Raytheon respectively. Building these weapons in Taiwan would mean faster delivery and enable quick stockpiling of weapons in Taiwan to be used by US troops in the event of a war.

This could also benefit the Philippines, a country facing harassment from an increasingly aggressive China in parts of the South China Sea which the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016 declared to be Philippine territory. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to defending the Philippines against attacks in the South China Sea.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr following his meeting with Blinken said that he emphasized the importance of “more substantial US investments towards enhancing our defense and civilian law enforcement capabilities.”

The China Coast Guard has already attacked Philippine vessels with water cannons. Although the US might be seeking to avoid escalation by directly confronting Chinese vessels, it could at least help the Philippines better arm itself — with arms manufactured in Taiwan.

China is threatened by those bases, and it has attempted to drive a wedge between Manila and Washington. Beijing has accused the US of using the Philippines as a “pawn” in South China Sea disputes.

Polls by the Pew Research Center suggest that Filipinos largely have a favorable opinion of the US, but Washington should seek to maintain that situation by taking concrete actions to give Filipino fishers and supply boat operators a sense of security in Philippine and international waters.

The US is being stretched thin by its numerous engagements worldwide, but it could alleviate some of its burden by having its allies and partners do more of the heavy lifting. Washington could lead an initiative to have Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea and other regional partners cooperate with the US and each other on maritime patrols and weapons manufacturing. The US has an indispensable role to play in regional security, but it should not take on the full burden on its own.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2024/03/23

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