By Cui Mingxuan, Xiao Shiyan and Wei Hui
Despite the F-16 warplane crash on the first day, the Hanguang exercise of the Taiwan army still received great fanfare. When Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen inspected the military exercise on June 7, she rooted for herself by shouting the slogan "where there is Taiwan army, there is Taiwan". The Tsai administration also received a big "present package" from American politicians.
The military committee of American Senate "opportunely" released the revised draft of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2019FY, requiring the U.S. to intensify defense cooperation with Taiwan and expressly asking the U.S. military to participate in Taiwan's military exercises including the Hanguang exercise.
Will the American military really join the exercise in the future?
As a matter of fact, the U.S. military has always had connections with Hanguang military exercise, whose predecessor was the "China-US joint military exercise" held by Taiwan military and the American military advisory panel. At that time, the Taiwan military, American naval fleet and American military advisory panel all participated in the exercise.
The "diplomatic ties" between Taiwan and the U.S. were cut off in 1979, and their annual joint military exercise ended with the abolition of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the U.S. and the Republic of China.
In August that year, Taiwan military independently held an island-wide combat exercise for the first time, code-named "Hanyang exercise", which was later renamed Hanguang exercise. American military sent observation delegations to the exercises from time to time.
Qiu Yi, a KMT member and former member of the Legislative Yuan, told the reporter on June 7 that the U.S. side often sent advisory delegations, which was usually headed by a retired senior military officer, to observe the Hanguang exercise. That was playing the touch ball but now the congress is urging the military to do more than that.
Washington's provocations to the Chinese mainland are of different levels. It can assign current service member to be part of the advisory delegation, which is against the "One China" principle and obviously more provocative than playing the touch ball. "The most serious situation is assigning a delegation to join the exercise, which will violate the red line drawn by the Chinese mainland. Washington won’t dare to do that at the moment."
According to an analyst from the mainland, the NDAA will generally be passed by the senate after it is passed by the military committee as a legislative convention in the U.S. It's worth noting that the draft used the wording what the U.S. "should" do, which means it represents the congress' opinion but has no binding force on the department of operations. The concrete actions to be taken will depend on the attitude of the administration, which is generally more rational. On the other hand, we can see that Washington is playing the Taiwan card more often nowadays, and is giving constant signals that challenge the bottom line about the Taiwan Strait. In particular, the U.S. has passed some acts. Although no specific action has been yet taken, these acts provide the legal basis for the U.S. to interfere in Taiwan affairs in the future, which can be dangerous. The American congress has repeatedly made a fuss over Taiwan in its NDAA. In July last year, it passed the NDAA for 2018FY, which asked the American secretary of defense to assess the possibility of American and Taiwan naval vessels visiting each other.
The Taiwan Travel Act signed by Trump in March this year made it more convenient for high-level American and Taiwan officials to realize mutual visits. Reuters reported in June 5 that the U.S. military is planning to assign military vessels to pass the Taiwan Strait, and is considering changing the model of arms sale to Taiwan from package sale every few years to irregular sale based on Taiwan's needs. The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post commented on June 6 that Pentagon's decision to increase the military support to Taiwan may aggravate the strategic competition between Beijing and Washington.
An observer said the U.S. has been sending various signals of its Taiwan policy. On the other hand, to avoid irritating Beijing, Washington is unlikely to send high-ranking officials to attend the inauguration ceremony of American Institute in Taiwan's new building to be held on June 12. A Chinese analyst said the U.S. is trying to strike a "subtle balance" in the ever fiercer competition with China.
Disclaimer: The authors are Cui Mingxuan, Xiao Shiyan and Wei Hui, reporters with the Global Times. The article is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn. Chinamil.com.cn does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. If the article carries photographs or images, we do not vouch for their authenticity.