Taiwan to benefit from U.S.-China cooperation on North Korea: MAC

Taiwan can benefit from U.S.-China teaming up to deal with North Korea issues, says MAC Minister Katherine Chang

Aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson sails out of San Diego Harbor leaving for a nine month deployment in San Diego. (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News)—When Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen made an international phone call to congratulate the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump on Dec. 2, 2016, it was viewed as a milestone in the two countries relations.

It was the first time a U.S. leader directly communicated with his Taiwanese counterpart, since diplomatic relations between the two countries were severed in the 1970s, instilling a sense of hope of stronger ties between the two nations.

However, following Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) recent talks at MAR-A-LAGO in Florida, U.S. on April 7, 2017, it appeared to some Taiwanese politicians that the U.S. president switched sides and joined arms with China to deal with rogue nation North Korea.

North Korea’s failed missile launch over the weekend off its coast, and an earlier showcase of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) and rumored Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) during parades to commemorate the nation's 105th anniversary alarmed surrounding Asian nations, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China.

Taiwanese politicians were slightly relieved that the rumored fourth communiqué that would further limit U.S. arms sales to Taiwan was not made between U.S.-China leaders during talks. In fact, there was no mention of Taiwan at the meetings at all.

Yet, some Taiwanese lawmakers were disappointed with the outcome viewing it as the country's diminishing importance to the U.S.

Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Minister Katherine Chang (張小月) downplayed the pessimistic outlook and reassured lawmakers that Taiwan is still an important U.S. ally at a meeting in Taiwan's Legislative Yuan on Monday.

Taiwan is a military strategically important asset to the U.S. in its Pacific island chain defense strategy in Asia, an important partner in maintaining regional security, and crucial U.S. trading partner, she said.

Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) lawmaker Yen Kuan-heng (顏寬恆) questioned if the Tsai Administration was being overly optimistic in its assessments of Taiwan and U.S. relationships.

It was only after the meeting between the world’s two most powerful leaders that the Trump Administration reiterated its One-China policy, and promised it would uphold Taiwan Relations Act, said Chang.

"We have made it clear before Trump and Xi meeting that Taiwan's national interest needs to be respected," said Chang. "We will not accept China Taipei as Taiwan's official name at any important international event."

After meeting with Xi, Trump toned down previous statements that if China refuses to take action against North Korea, U.S. will take matter in their own hands.

Still, the U.S. dispatched the USS Carl Vinson, a super carrier, to the Korean Peninsula's surrounding waters on Monday as a signal to North Korea to immediately stop rocket launch tests that threaten regional security.

However, the U.S. still requires China's partnership to fully address the difficult situation on the Korean Peninsula. Some Taiwanese lawmakers were slightly uneasy that cozier China-U.S. relations would end with Taiwan being sidelined.

In contrast, Chang viewed Trump's seeking China to take greater action to curb North Korea from developing nuclear warheads and firing missiles into Japan's waters, as a positive development for Taiwan.

"If North Korea can be stabilized it can help Taiwan," said Chang.

Asked about Trump's unpredictable, flip-flopping strategy of delisting China as a currency manipulator, but naming Taiwan on its currency observation list, opposition party Kuomingtang (KMT) lawmaker Huang Chao-Shun (黃昭順) questioned if “the U.S. was just using Taiwan as its pawn.”

"Every country is just acting on the behalf of its own interest,” replied Chang. "Trump is at heart a businessman and will change national policies that are in line with U.S. government interests."