Crossstrait relations entering sensitive phase: U.S. policy group

New York, CrossTaiwan Strait relations are entering a sensitive phase and careful management by Taiwan, China and the United States will be needed to navigate the upcoming elections in Taiwan, according to a report issued Monday by a U.S. policy organization.

The report was published by the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP) after it hosted closeddoor discussions in New York April 34 by some 30 scholars and former officials from the United States, China and Taiwan on crossstrait issues.

Given the growing security risks in the Taiwan Strait, a U.S. participant said, Beijing and Taipei should rebuild an authoritative backchannel to minimize surprises and mitigate the risk of unintended escalation, according to the report.

The American participant also suggested that China reduce military activities around Taiwan in the runup to Taiwan's presidential election, which will take place on Jan. 11, 2019, according to the report.

When asked about the intent underlying China's fighter planes incursion across the Taiwan Strait median line, the Chinese participants provided several explanations, saying, for example, that the flights were in response to regularized and publicized U.S. Navy transits of the Taiwan Strait and the gradual loosening of restrictions on transit stops in the U.S. by Taiwan's president, the report said.

The flights may also have been a response to Taiwan President Tsai Ingwen's steady efforts to separate Taiwan from China, and to news reports that the U.S. would sell F16s to Taiwan, the Chinese participants added.

The main point of commonality in the Chinese explanations, the report said, was that it was a deliberate incursion meant to signal displeasure with crossstrait developments, the report said.

According to Taiwan's defense ministry, two J11 fighter planes from the People's Liberation Army of China crossed the median line and entered Taiwan's southwestern airspace on March 31.

Military sources told CNA that it was the first time since 1999 that the Chinese military had intentionally crossed the median line of the waterway that separates Taiwan and China.

With Taiwan's presidential election approaching, the American and Taiwan participants in the forum said, they were deeply concerned about Beijing's efforts to influence the political discourse in Taiwan through cyber, monetary, and media efforts.

They said that Chinese influences had become increasingly active prior to the November 2018 local elections.

The Chinese participants, however, said that such arguments were not convincing, given the lack of publicly available evidence to support such claims.

Commenting on the growing mistrust in crossstrait relations, a Chinese participant said that the more Beijing squeezed Taiwan's international space, the more Taiwan had been turning to Washington for support, and the more Beijing felt compelled to further squeeze Taiwan's international space.

According to a Taiwanese participant, however, Beijing's actions toward Taiwan were generating momentum in Washington toward viewing China as a competitor and Taiwan as a partner, the report said.

An American participant, meanwhile, talked about the public health risks associated with Beijing's efforts to deny Taiwan participation in World Health Organizationrelated events and access to technical data.

The participants included David Brown, a professor at Johns Hopkins University; Raymond Burghardt, former chairman of the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan; Lin Chengyi former deputy head of Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council; and Ho Szuyin Professor of Tamkang University.

Among the Chinese participants were Ruan Zongze Vice President of the China Institute of International Studies, and Shao Yuqun director of Institute of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau Studies at Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel