TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- In an interview with American scholar Ian Easton posted on YouTube on Monday (April 1), China Uncensored host Chris Chappell asked: "Should Taiwan have nuclear weapons?"
In the interview, Easton, a fellow at the Project 2049 Institute, cited the example of Israel as being a small country like Taiwan, which is facing an existential threat from its larger neighbors, but is safe from invasion in part because of its nuclear weapons. "Only a nation that has completely lost its mind and is suicidal, is ever going to invade another nation that is armed with nuclear weapons," said Easton.
Easton said that the strategic position of Taiwan is becoming highly destabilized, because Taiwan is a democratic nation of 23 million people finding itself squaring off against "a deeply authoritarian" country of 1.3 billion that has nuclear weapons. He said that China's military might is increasing dramatically and during a speech on Jan 2, Chinese President Xi Jinping in Easton's words "made it crystal clear that his intentions are to retake Taiwan."
However, Easton says that the U.S. is not equipped to deal with this situation because the U.S. does not have troops in Taiwan and the U.S. and Taiwan do not have an iron-clad security commitment. He said that the Taiwan Relations Act passed in 1979 is "a very rough substitute for an alliance," but it is leaving "a huge gap" that is growing as China's power grows.
He said that this is leading to a destabilizing situation that will increase the probability of a "really horrific war" as the world enters the 2020s.
Chappell then asked given that China has nuclear weapons and Taiwan only has F-16 fighter jets, "What possible deterrent does Taiwan have?" Easton explained that the Taiwan Relations Act requires the U.S. to assist Taiwan in having the "capacity" to defend itself against military aggression by China, but does not ensure that the U.S. must directly act to defend it from China.
Easton said that the Taiwan Relations Act differs from defense pacts with other allies in that it is not linked to U.S. strategic nuclear forces. In addition, unlike other allies, Taiwan does not have American troops stationed there as a "trip line," such as is the case with Baltic states that are members of NATO.
Easton said that regardless of how hard Taiwan's military trains and how well equipped it is, the tiny island nation will not be able to maintain a "credible defense force." He said that there has to be something more in terms of deterrence.
He emphasized that he was not calling for the immediate arming of Taiwan with nuclear weapons or rush into tying U.S. strategic nuclear forces with Taiwan. Easton did say that the U.S. needs to "think much more carefully about deterrence."
Easton suggested that there may be other means of deterrence that could be utilized instead of nuclear weapons, such as conventional (weapons), economic, political, trade, or other measures. He said that the bottom line is that there needs to be some substitute for nuclear weapons, "otherwise the Chinese can just escalate their way out of this problem and end up taking over Taiwan, which would really undermine our national security interests."