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Talk of the Day -- U.S. briefs Taiwan on new defense strategy

Talk of the Day -- U.S. briefs Taiwan on new defense strategy

The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) has briefed Taiwan on the U.S. government's shifting defense strategy and expressed America's determination to maintain peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region, the National Security Council (NSC) said Friday. The briefing came a day after President Barack Obama unveiled a defense strategy that would expand the U.S. military presence in Asia but shrink the overall size of the force as the Pentagon seeks to slash spending by nearly half a trillion dollars after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the NSC said in a statement. "The briefing showed that the U.S. pays great attention to Taiwan," the presidential advisory board said, adding that Taiwan is a "long-term and strong partner" to the U.S. Bruce Linghu, director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Department of North American Affairs, also said Friday that the meeting signified smooth communication and mutual trust between the U.S. and Taiwan. It was also in line with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech in November 2011, in which she noted that there was a strong bond between the U.S. and Taiwan and described the island as an economic and strategic partner, Linghu said. The close Taiwan-U.S. ties were further reflected in the inclusion of three photos featuring Taiwanese soldiers in a 2012 calendar issued by the Asia-Pacific Defense Forum -- a professional military magazine published quarterly by the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, local defense pundits said. According to foreign wire service reports, the new Pentagon strategy was seen as an "evolutionary" Asian security strategy to counterbalance China's growing might, which could lead to a network of new military partnerships across Asia. The following are excerpts from the local media coverage of the new U.S. defense strategy and its possible impact: United Evening News: Taiwan officials in charge of national defense and security affairs have received a 2012 calendar as a new year's gift from the AIT, which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties between the two countries. They found that much to their surprise, the calendar contained three photos featuring Taiwanese soldiers. It is the first time that the calendar, produced by the Asia-Pacific Defense Forum (APDF) under the U.S. Pacific Command, has ever featured images of Taiwan's armed forces. Military experts said the inclusion of the photos signifies good relations between Taiwan and the U.S. The annual APDF calendar only carries U.S. military images or photos featuring soldiers of its allies such as Japan, South Korea and Canada. None of APDF calendars have ever featured images of China's People's Liberation Army. One of the photos in the 2012 APDF calendar shows Taiwanese soldiers operating a CM-11 medium-sized tank at an army base in Hsinchu in northern Taiwan. Another features the commissioning ceremony for a missile speed boat at a naval base in Suao in Yilan in northeastern Taiwan, and the third shows soldiers conducting a drill with an M-60 tank in the outlying island of Penghu. (Jan. 5, 2012). United Daily News: In a rare appearance in the Pentagon press briefing room on Thursday, Obama unveiled the new defense strategy, saying the "tide of war is receding." Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also said on the same occasion that the U.S. military would be "smaller and leaner." Administration officials say they expect the Army and Marine Corp to be cut by 10 percent to 15 percent over the next decade. The new strategy hints at a reduced U.S. military presence in Europe and stresses Asia as a bigger priority. It also emphasizes improving U.S. capabilities in the areas of cyberwarfare and missile defense. China is a particular worry because of its economic dynamism and rapid defense buildup, defense analysts said, adding that a more immediate concern is Iran, not only for its threats to disrupt the flow of international oil but also for its nuclear ambitions. Beijing apparently attaches great importance to shifts in the U.S. defense strategy. China's official news media gave prominent coverage to Obama's announcement of a revised Pentagon strategy that puts more priority on Asia. Many Chinese military experts also said they believe that Washington's new defense posture is aimed at encircling China and that it could hobble China's growing power. Jin Yinan, a professor at China's National Defense University, said the U.S. has decided to shift its focus more toward Asia mainly because it feels its superpower status has been threatened by rapidly growing developing countries such as China, Russia and India. Jin said the new U.S. strategy not only targets China but also India. China should not be daunted by the U.S. military buildup in Asia and should maintain its stance on many critical issues, such as its sovereignty claims to the disputed South China Sea and its opposition to U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, he suggested. (Jan. 7, 2012). (By Sofia Wu)