英文

Editorial : The Taiwan Strait

【明報專訊】After Keith Krach, a US Under Secretary of State, visited Taiwan in mid-September, warplanes from the People's Liberation Army crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait repeatedly for two weeks. The tones of US and Taiwanese high-ranking government officials have also changed. It can be seen that Beijing's declaration of its position has unveiled Washington's bottom line, i.e. its unwillingness to be mired in Taiwan Strait warfare.

Since the beginning of this year, the US has played the Taiwan Card increasingly vigorously. Taiwan-US relations are now unprecedentedly close. The US Congress has adopted a succession of pro-Taiwan bills, and its Health Secretary and Under Secretary of State have visited Taiwan one after another. The US's ambassador to the United Nations has met with Taiwan's representative to New York, claiming that the US will help Taiwan participate in the UN. Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan's representative to the US, even changed her official title in her social media account to "Taiwan Ambassador to the US". Rumours of the resumption of Taiwan-US diplomatic relations, the US's change of its ambiguous policy towards Taiwan, and its deployment of armies to help defend Taiwan flew around all of a sudden. A survey conducted by the Taiwanese Public Opinion Foundation found that 60% of Taiwanese people believed that the US would send its troops to defend Taiwan in case of an invasion by mainland China.

The so-called Taiwan Strait median line is also called Davis Line. It was named after the commander of the 13th Air Force in December 1954. The requirement was that Taiwanese warplanes and warships must not cross over to the West of the line, otherwise they would not be protected by the US military forces. The aim was in fact to lay down the ground rules for combat for the US forces stationed in Taiwan.

Adhering to the so-called median line of the Taiwan Strait was an unspoken agreement when the two sides of the Strait were in good relations. That Beijing has openly denied the existence of the median line shows that the original military set-up of the Taiwan Strait has been shattered.

The sudden change in the tones of US and Taiwanese politicians is a revelation for Taiwan. When the Trump administration locks horns with Beijing, any kind of "advances in friendship" not in black and white can only be seen as political manoeuvres rather than diplomatic breakthroughs even if they are stated verbally by politicians. The Trump administration is playing the Taiwan card vigorously to contain the mainland's development so as to maximise the US's interests. But Washington knows very well that a hot war and the touching of the red lines are not in the US's interests. Hence a sudden halt of the gestures.

Beijing is not in any haste to seek a military unification with Taiwan. However, if Taiwan declares independence, builds diplomatic relations with the US or lets US forces be stationed in Taiwan, the CPC will have no choice but to use military force. The question is whether the US wants to turn Taiwan into a battleground and abandons this "chessman". Apparently, the US does not want to give up on Taiwan now, but it does not want to be embroiled in Taiwan Strait warfare either.

The latest survey shows that if war breaks out between mainland China and Taiwan, 54.2% of Taiwanese people want to open peace talks with the mainland. As for the outcome of the war, 44.8% of respondents believed that it will end in peace talks. This shows the Taiwanese people yearn for peace and do not want war.

明報社評2020.10.05:口風突變揭美底牌 台海紅線取代中線

自從美國國務院次卿克拉奇9月中旬訪台後,解放軍戰機連續兩周飛越台灣海峽中線,美台高官的口風也出現變化。可見,北京的宣示試出了華府的底牌:現在還不想捲入台海戰爭的泥潭中。

今年以來,美國打台灣牌力度加大,雙邊關係空前熱絡,美國國會接連通過挺台議案,衛生部長、國務院次卿相繼訪台,駐聯合國大使約會台灣駐紐約代表,揚言要協助台灣參與聯合國組織,台灣駐美代表蕭美琴甚至將自己的社交媒體帳戶標註為「台灣駐美大使」,一時間,台美將恢復邦交,美國將改變對台戰略模糊、明確出兵協防台灣等傳言甚囂塵上。台灣民意基金會的民調顯示,高達六成台灣民眾相信,美國會在大陸武力攻台時出兵護台。

所謂台海中線,又稱「戴維斯線」,是1954年12月美方以時任美軍第13航空特遣隊司令之名劃定的一條界線,要求台灣軍機、軍艦勿越過中線以西,否則不獲美軍保障,作用其實是明確駐台美軍的交戰規則。

所謂台海中線,在兩岸關係良好時是雙方的默契。北京公開否定台海中線的存在,標誌台灣海峽原有的軍事格局已被打破。

美台政要的口風突變,對台灣的啟示是,在特朗普政府與北京激烈對抗之際,任何沒有白紙黑字的「友誼進展」,即使是政治人物的口頭宣示,都只能視為政治操作而非外交突破。特朗普政府大打台灣牌,是為牽制大陸發展,使美國利益「最大化」,但華府深知,挑起熱戰衝突,「踩紅線」並不符合美國利益,因此,才會出現懸崖勒馬的現象。

北京並不急於武統台灣,但如若台灣獨立、與美國建交或讓美軍進駐,中共只能別無選擇地動武。問題是美國要不要把台灣變成戰場,讓這顆棋子成為棄子。顯然美國現在還不想放棄台灣,也不想捲入台海戰爭。

最新的民調顯示,假若兩岸爆發戰爭,54.2%台灣民眾希望與對岸和談,至於戰爭的最終結果,44.8%的人認為雙方會和談。這說明台灣民心嚮往和平,不願見到戰爭。

■Glossary 生字

ground rules : the basic rules or principles on which future actions or behaviour should be based

lock horns : to begin to argue or fight

yearn : to want sth very much, especially when it is very difficult to get

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