As it observes the 25th anniversary of the enactment of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), the United States maintains a serious commitment to its defense relationship with Taiwan, according to Peter W. Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.
But Taiwan faces "significant challenges" on the security front as it moves into the 21st century and must "redouble its efforts" to strengthen and modernize its defense forces, Rodman said in testimony before the House International Relations Committee April 21.
"We consider that maintenance of a deterrent balance of power in the Strait is a contribution both to stability and to the incentive for a peaceful solution" to the situation between Taiwan and China, Rodman said. China's military modernization, financed by its growing economic strength, now threatens to disturb that delicate balance, he cautioned. "As China seeks to provide its leadership with credible options for the use of force, Taiwan's relative military strength will decline unless it makes significant investments in defense."
Taiwan's difficulties are complicated by its isolation from outside sources of support, Rodman said. "In the international community, the United States stands almost alone in its willingness to assist in the security of Taiwan," he said. Internal political debates have also taken a toll on Taiwan's preparedness.
"Over the last ten years," Rodman said, "Taiwan's defense budget has shrunk in real terms and as a proportion of its gross domestic product. We have made clear to our friends on Taiwan that we expect them to reverse this defense budget decline. Though our commitments to Taiwan are enduring, the American people and both the Executive Branch and Congress expect the people of Taiwan to make their own appropriate commitment to their freedom and security."
Rodman stressed that Taiwan's challenges are "serious, but they are not insurmountable."
"Armed with a solid base of knowledge and consistent with our legal obligations under the TRA," he said, "the U.S. is assisting Taiwan to create a professional, civilian-controlled defense establishment that is modern, joint, and able to function effectively should it be required to defend itself." (ends)
Following is the text of the assistant secretary's remarks, as prepared for delivery:
"The Taiwan Relations Act: The Next 25 Years"
Prepared Statement of Peter W. Rodman
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs
House International Relations Committee
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, and Members of the Committee.
I congratulate you for holding this hearing addressing the Taiwan Relations Act - the Next Twenty-Five Years. In light of the recent presidential elections in Taiwan and Vice President Cheney's visit to China, this is an opportune time to take a close look at this important cornerstone of U.S. security policy in East Asia.
Twenty-five years ago, on January, 1, 1979, the United States normalized relations with the People's Republic of China, terminated governmental relations with the governing authorities on Taiwan, and enacted the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA). Many changes that have occurred since then - the end of the Cold War as well as dramatic changes both on Taiwan and in China - but the framework of our overall policy has endured. This has underpinned both peace in the Taiwan Strait and a thriving democracy on Taiwan. As we look forward to the next twenty-five years, the TRA remains a crucial pillar of that policy.
The TRA requires essentially two things from the United States Government: that we assist Taiwan in its defense, and that we ourselves retain the capacity to resist the use of force against Taiwan. I would like to explain how we approach these obligations.
U.S. Support for Taiwan's Defense:
The United States Government actively engages with Taiwan to meet our commitments under the TRA. We closely monitor the security situation in the Strait, making available defense articles and services to Taiwan to ensure it can maintain a sufficient self-defense capability. We also work with Taiwan on a series of other initiatives to help Taiwan address shortcomings in its military readiness, and we maintain our own capabilities to assist in the defense of Taiwan if required.
Specifically, the TRA stipulates that "the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability." The TRA states that "the President and the Congress shall determine the nature and quantity of such defense articles and services based solely upon their judgment of the needs of Taiwan, in accordance with procedures established by law." The TRA further asserts that "such determination of Taiwan's defense needs shall include review by United States military authorities in connection with recommendations to the President and Congress." Section 2 (b) states:
It is the policy of the United States... to consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States; to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character; and to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of the people on Taiwan.
The United States takes these obligations very seriously. The President's National Security Strategy, published in September 2002, calls for "building a balance of power that favors freedom." Taiwan's evolution into a true multi-party democracy over the past decade is proof of the importance of America's commitment to Taiwan's defense. It strengthens American resolve to see Taiwan's democracy grow and prosper.
The United States remains committed to its undertakings toward Beijing - its commitment to the "Three Communiqués" of 1972, 1979, and 1982, and to our One-China policy. We encourage a peaceful resolution of the dispute, and oppose unilateral steps by either side that would change the status of Taiwan. But, especially for the Department of Defense (DoD), we cannot stress too strongly this country's opposition to the use or threat of force. We consider that maintenance of a deterrent balance of power in the Strait is a contribution both to stability and to the incentive for a peaceful solution.
This has been a bipartisan commitment. As President Clinton put it in February 2000, we "will continue to reject the use of force as a means to resolve the Taiwan question. We will also continue to make absolutely clear that the issues between Beijing and Taiwan must be resolved peacefully and with the consent of the people of Taiwan."
--PRC Military Modernization
As it enters the 21st century, Taiwan faces significant challenges. China is growing into an economic powerhouse, and its new-found economic strength has enabled it to launch an ambitious military modernization. The PRC is steadily amassing greater military power which could be used to coerce or intimidate Taiwan into a political settlement on its (Beijing's) terms. The PRC's ambitious military modernization, and deployments across the Strait opposite Taiwan, raise concern about its declared preference for resolving differences with Taiwan through peaceful means. This modernization is aimed at improving China's force options against Taiwan, and at deterring, countering, or complicating U.S. military intervention. It is focused on exploiting vulnerabilities in Taiwan's national and operational-level command and control system, its integrated air defense system, and its reliance on sea lanes of communication for sustenance. As China seeks to provide its leadership with credible options for the use of force, Taiwan's relative military strength will decline unless it makes significant investments in defense.
As China accelerates its force modernization, Taiwan remains isolated, especially in the area of security cooperation. In the international community, the United States stands almost alone in its willingness to assist in the security of Taiwan. Taipei's isolation limits its choices on procurement and force modernization. Taiwan's isolation also constrains its ability to exploit technological, organizational, and doctrinal aspects of today's global military transformation. Finally, its isolation creates uncertainties with regard to procurement of foreign weapon systems, which in turn complicates development of a long-term, coherent force modernization strategy.
Taiwan faces internal challenges in this respect as well. The difficulties it has encountered in fostering a national consensus over defense strategy, its highly charged partisan political competition, and Service parochialism, all complicate Taiwan's force modernization. Over the last ten years, Taiwan's defense budget has shrunk in real terms and as a proportion of its gross domestic product (GDP). We have made clear to our friends on Taiwan that we expect them to reverse this defense budget decline. Though our commitments to Taiwan are enduring, the American people and both the Executive Branch and Congress expect the people of Taiwan to make their own appropriate commitment to their freedom and security.
These challenges are serious, but they are not insurmountable. The U.S. defense relationship with Taiwan seeks to reverse the negative trends in its ability to defend itself, thereby decreasing the prospects that U.S. military intervention would be necessary in a crisis. The goal is to strengthen deterrence, and to reinforce the prospects for a peaceful and just solution. For deterrence to be effective, we must be prepared to swiftly defeat any PRC use of force.
The United States maintains an active dialogue with Taiwan's defense authorities to better understand their current capabilities and future requirements, and to assist Taiwan in improving its defense.
Since 1997, DoD has conducted more than a dozen studies, reports, assessments, and surveys that have evaluated Taiwan's legitimate defense needs. Armed with a solid base of knowledge and consistent with our legal obligations under the TRA, the U.S. is assisting Taiwan to create a professional, civilian-controlled defense establishment that is modern, joint, and able to function effectively should it be required to defend itself. Though a variety of forums and channels, DoD is supporting Taiwan in developing an integrated national security strategy; joint doctrine, and integrated capabilities for training, employing, and sustaining joint forces.
The U.S-Taiwan defense dialogue has succeeded in focusing attention on critical steps that must be taken in order to enhance Taiwan's defense in the next three to five years. Taiwan has taken positive steps to modernize its C4ISR system and undercut the political and military utility of the PRC's most effective means of coercion - its growing arsenal of increasingly accurate and lethal conventional ballistic missiles and ever more capable submarine force. Taiwan has invested in passive defense systems, streamlined its military force, addressed pilot shortages, and drafted and implemented a detailed plan for the recruitment and retention of civilian personnel.
While modernizing its force in a focused manner, Taiwan must redouble its efforts. Reversing the decline in its defense budgets should be a priority.
We expect Taiwan to go forward with its plan to pass a "Special Budget" this summer to fund essential missile defense and anti-submarine warfare systems and programs. We urge all political parties in Taiwan to support this essential measure.
We also believe that Taiwan should devote more resources to readiness, including personnel management and training. Taiwan should further strengthen its strategy and force planning processes, and develop the means to identify and correct deficiencies.
We also recommend that Taiwan enhance interoperability among its Services.
--China and U.S.-Taiwan Relations:
Our defense cooperation with Taiwan is consistent with our TRA obligations and reflects the serious security challenges posed by Beijing's rapid military build-up across the Strait. The People's Liberation Army's growing sophistication, including its efforts to complicate U.S. intervention, calls for more cooperation between the United States and Taiwan to improve Taiwan's ability to defend itself and reduce the danger to U.S. forces should China's actions impose a crisis upon us. We have available a wide range of security assistance tools that are consistent with the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan.
The President's National Security Strategy report stated this Administration's goal of a constructive relationship with a changing China. But it also stated, with candor, some basic questions that remain unanswered about the path that China will follow in both its internal evolution and its military policies. The answers to these questions will be of central importance to the future of the Taiwan issue and of the TRA.
The United States has consistently made clear, since President Nixon's historic breakthrough, that we would accept any solution freely agreed to by the parties on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. We have also being clear that we oppose unilateral efforts by either the PRC or Taiwan to change the status quo. In short, we are not the obstacle to resolution. But the United States has also consistently made clear, through every Administration since then, that a Chinese attempt to use force would inevitably involve the United States.
There are a number of reasons why this is true:
First, whether an alliance or the careful articulation of the TRA, American words and the spirit behind them have a wider meaning. America's allies and others who rely on us will be watching how we live up to our commitments.
Second, China knows that an attempt at forcible subjugation of the people on Taiwan would not only fracture the basis of the US-China relationship as spelled out in the Three Communiqués. It would also be judged around the world to be a rejection of international standards that champion peaceful solutions.
Thus, how China conducts itself in dealing with Taiwan will tell the world a great deal about how China - a rapidly emerging power - will use its growing strength. Will China continue on its peaceful course of integrating into the international system? Or will it resort readily to its growing military strength to resolve disputes? This basic question accounts for the harsh international reaction to Chinese missile launches during a Taiwan Strait mini-crisis in 1995-96. It remains an important question in the minds of all China's neighbors.
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Ranking Member, and Members of the Committee:
This is why a peaceful resolution of the Taiwan problem remains so crucial not only to the peoples of China and Taiwan, but to the international order. The Taiwan Relations Act has embodied this consistent U.S. policy for 25 successful years. The TRA, we are confident, will play the same positive role in the coming period.