Taiwan Needs to Strengthen Unity with Democracies

How will Taiwan deal with China, which is attempting to isolate it by breaking down Taiwan’s diplomatic relations with other nations by dint of overwhelming economic power? The administration of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen needs to strengthen its unity with the democratic world, including the United States, Japan and Europe.

Tsai met with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the suburbs of Los Angeles. This was her first visit to the United States in four years, and reportedly the first time a Taiwan president has met the speaker of the House of Representatives on U.S. soil.

McCarthy said, “I believe our bond is stronger now than at any time or point in my lifetime.” In response, Tsai expressed thanks for U.S. support to avoid Taiwan’s isolation.

Members of the U.S. Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, were present at the meeting. This can be seen as a sign of Congress’ bipartisan determination to promote cooperation with Taiwan.

During her trip, Tsai visited Guatemala and Belize, two Central American countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. However, as if timed to coincide with her trip, another Central American country — Honduras — severed its diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which had existed for more than 80 years, and established diplomatic relations with China instead.

The Honduran foreign minister cited financial difficulties and other reasons for severing its diplomatic ties with Taiwan. The country probably believes that a significant increase in economic assistance and investment from China will solve these problems.

Many developing countries, like Honduras, are attracted to China. Since the Tsai administration was launched in 2016, nine countries have severed their diplomatic ties with Taiwan, including five from Central America.

This reflects the decline of U.S. influence and the growth of anti-U.S. leftist regimes in the region. Honduras had been a pro-U.S. country, but last year a leftist administration was inaugurated that pledged to establish diplomatic relations with China.

In Paraguay, the only South American country with diplomatic relations with Taiwan, a leftist candidate who is seen as a favorite to win this month’s presidential election has pledged to normalize diplomatic relations with China.

It is difficult for Taipei to counter Beijing’s diplomatic offensive with Taiwan’s own economic power. Taiwan seems to have no choice but to unite with countries that share values such as freedom and democracy and raise its profile on the world stage.

Eastern European countries that feel threatened by Russia are distancing themselves from China, which condones Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and are moving to strengthen relations with Taiwan. These new trends may give Taiwan’s diplomacy more strength and breadth.

Japan, too, should cooperate in maintaining and improving Taiwan’s international status, such as by backing Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization’s general assembly meetings.

Opposing Tsai’s visit to the United States, China has deployed an aircraft carrier in the vicinity of Taiwan. Its military aircraft have repeatedly violated the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the de facto ceasefire line between China and Taiwan. Provocations that increase military tension and threaten regional stability absolutely must not be tolerated.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 7, 2023)