Taiwan serves as a “pivot point” from a geostrategic perspective and a cornerstone for Asia-Pacific regional stability, Taiwan’s Navy chief warned last week.
Adm. Chen Yeong-kang spoke during the 2014 International Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) Conference sponsored by the Taiwan Navy on Oct. 15.
Moreover, the Taiwan Strait is the “maritime gullet” between Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia, he said. Any “abrupt armed incident or mass military conflict” in the SLOC is possible and would “endanger transport safety.”
Taiwan is attempting to contribute to regional stability by broadening new areas of cooperation, such as the “East China Sea Peace Initiative” put forth by Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou in August 2012.
Conference attendees expressed concern the US might ignore Taiwan’s strategic position and Ma’s initiatives, even as regional powers make opposing chess moves in the South China Sea and East China Sea over rocks, reefs and islets.
Bickering between China and Japan over territorial rights of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea has been increasing in recent years. Taiwan also claims the islands, but has urged for a peaceful resolution to territorial disagreements.
There are also concerns over China’s interpretation and/or misunderstanding of the US Asia pivot or “rebalance,” under which the US has increased its presence in the Philippines and reinforced its commitment to Japan’s defense with new agreements and guidelines.
In response, China proposed, but has yet to finalize, the “New Type Great Power Relations” (NTGPR) during then-Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington in February 2012, said Soong Hseik-wen, a security specialist at Taiwan’s Institute of Strategy and International Affairs, National Chung Cheng University.
What type of new power relationship China is proposing to the US is “still vague and potentially useful,” he said. Some have interpreted the NTGPR as an indirect form of countering China’s counter-balance strategy against the US. Others argue that it is a compromise to the Asia pivot strategy. Details are sketchy, but the basic notion is that “the Pacific is big enough to contain two countries,” Soong said.