Time for Taiwan to get nuclear weapons

President Joe Biden has diplomats around the world scratching their heads over his newly announced commitment to the “Taiwan agreement” with China, a previously unknown accommodation.

Biden responded to recent Chinese fighter sorties near Taiwan by calling President Xi Jinping of China and warning him to abide by this imaginary agreement. “That’s where we are and we made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement,” Biden said.

American diplomats hastened to control the damage and contacted the Taiwanese government. They did not explain what agreement Biden was referring to. Instead, they pointed to the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 and President Ronald Reagan’s Six Assurances of 1982 as the basis of U.S.-Taiwan relations.

This follows John Kerry’s revelation on French television that Biden “literally had not been aware of what had transpired.” Kerry was apparently referring to France’s infuriated reaction to the U.S.-Australia nuclear submarine deal. The creation of the AUKUS alliance between Australia, Britain, and the US was a deft stroke of American diplomacy, but one that seems to have caught Biden by surprise.

It’s no longer news that Biden is ignorant and incoherent, although these could be the most dangerous examples yet.

Taiwan is China’s great grievance, its Alsace-Lorraine, torn away in 1949. Few people in Taiwan, however, see it this way or wish to see their country’s democracy replaced with mainland communism.

It’s not that China is eager for war exactly. For all the bombast that pours out of Beijing, the country hasn’t gone to war with anyone since it attacked Vietnam in 1979. The communist government pushes against Taiwan almost automatically. With Hunter Biden fully paid off by the Bank of China, it’s hard to see his father ever pushing back.

Until 2000, the Chinese Nationalist Party, or KMT, which Sun Yat-sen founded, ruled Taiwan. The KMT emphasizes Chinese identity and anticipated a return to the mainland. Traditionally, it was an anti-Communist party. But more recently, it is favored by Beijing.

President Tsai Ing-wen’s Democratic Progressive Party is a left-of-center party, proudest of bringing same-sex marriage to Taiwan and passing a law to shut all commercial nuclear reactors by 2025. I once went to a DPP rally in Taipei. The signs at the rally said, “Taiwan independence” and “No nukes.” I’m sorry, Tsai. That just isn’t going to work. You’ll need nukes if you want independence.

In 1980, Taiwan contracted with South Africa for 4,000 tons of uranium metal for its nuclear weapons program. This program was closed in 1987 under U.S. pressure after Colonel Chang Hsien-yi, its deputy director, defected. At that time, Taiwan was a dictatorship under martial law. The country democratized quickly over the next few years.

Some might wonder, isn’t Taiwan independent already? Not really. From 1949 to 1979, Taiwan was “Nationalist China” while the mainland was “Red China.” In 1979, U.S. President Jimmy Carter shifted U.S. recognition from Taipei to Beijing. Thus, one of America’s most loyal allies does not have diplomatic recognition or a U.S. embassy, but only an “American Institute in Taiwan,” aka AIT.

In the Cold War, China was America’s ally against the Soviet Union. So, there was a certain logic to this awkward concession. But Taiwan is no longer a land of refugees. It has the world’s 20th largest economy and it is a major exporter of computer chips. Taiwan Semiconductor, located in Taiwan, manufactures some 92 percent of the most sophisticated category of chips required by cell phones, personal computers, and cars.

With China sending us genetically engineered viruses and threatening to attack Taiwan, perhaps it is time to take down the AIT sign in Taipei and replace it with one that says, “Embassy of the United States.”

Peter Kauffner lives in Sequim, Washington

Image: Anti-nuclear protest in Taiwan (2013) by Travis Wise. CC BY 2.0.

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