September 30th 2006

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Articles from this issue:

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Debate simmers over Australian values

EDITORIAL: Learn from America and the EU!

NATIONAL SECURITY: Is ASIO the Achilles heel of counter-terrorism?

MERCHANTS OF SLEAZE: Raunchy lingerie for young children

EMPLOYMENT: Guest workers accepted at economy's expense

QUEENSLAND: State election a no-show for Coalition

HUMAN CLONING: U.S. feminists warn on cloning risks

UNITED STATES: Pro-choice feminism's NeW rival

CLIMATE CHANGE: 'An inconvenient truth?' ... or pseudo-science?

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Quadrant reaches 50 / Grassroots journalism / And another flies over the cuckoo's nest / Howard, Beazley and friends - the next 12 months

ASIAN AFFAIRS: China's missile build-up threatens Taiwan

Queensland election: why the Coalition lost (letter)

September 11 remembered (letter)

Behind the Montreal shootings (letter)

BOOKS: THE BEST OF ANDREW BOLT: Australia's most controversial columnist

BOOKS: THUNDER FROM THE SILENT ZONE: Rethinking China, by Paul Monk

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China's missile build-up threatens Taiwan

by Cheng Wen-tsang

News Weekly, September 30, 2006
North Korea's missile test in early July has raised grave concerns for countries in East Asia.

In passing Resolution 1695, the UN Security Council affirmed the principle that any provocative act that threatens regional stability and security should elicit the world community's timely and unified response.

Sadly, the equally dangerous missile threat that has long existed in the Taiwan Strait has received hardly any attention.

Ten years ago, on the eve of the Taiwan's first direct presidential election, China test-fired several missiles into waters off the coast of Taiwan to intimidate its voters.

Since then, Beijing has continued increasing its military pressure on Taiwan. Currently, it has deployed more than 800 missiles aimed at the island nation. It is estimated that the number of missiles increases by 80 to 100 per year.

Although the Taiwanese people have demonstrated over the past decade that their democracy can survive and thrive in the shadow of China's military intimidation, the international community should take appropriate measures to prevent the current security situation in the Taiwan Strait from further deteriorating and endangering the island nation's hard-won democracy.

Military spending

China's military spending has seen double-digit growth for 17 consecutive years. Its military build-up threatens to upset the region's military balance, with important security implications not only for Taiwan but for the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.

The opaque nature of China's military expansion and its hegemonic aspirations have deepened the worries of nations in the region.

A legitimate question is: Since no country in the Asia-Pacific is posing a military threat to China, why does Beijing continue to expand its military programs at such a pace?

Taiwan, in particular, has every reason to be worried about China's military expansion because Beijing continues to refuse to renounce the use of force to resolve disputes between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait.

Military transparency is critical for building trust among countries, and it helps reduce misperceptions and miscalculations that could lead to unwanted conflict.

In view of this, the government of Taiwan has proposed the establishment of cross-strait confidence-building mechanisms to increase mutual trust and remove misunderstandings. Taipei's appeals have thus far evoked no response from Beijing, however.

Worse, Beijing has continued to take confidence-reducing measures, such as conducting war games simulating an invasion of Taiwan and launching diplomatic offensives to isolate Taiwan internationally.

Its unnecessary, often provocative actions have caused the people of Taiwan to live in constant anxiety and threatened regional peace and stability. The motive behind Beijing's efforts to intensify Taiwanese people's sense of insecurity is obvious: it is a strategy of "creeping annexation," aimed at coercing Taiwan to submit to Beijing's ultimatums for unification.

Besides jeopardizing international peace and security, such intimidation has a deeper moral dimension: it erodes basic freedoms of the Taiwanese people.

Pressure exerted by Beijing on those Taiwanese people who do business in or with China to support its "one China principle" causes them - even when in free and democratic Taiwan - to conceal their political views and religious affiliations, engage in other forms of self-censorship, avoid placing advertisements in media critical of China, and be careful about whom they associate with.

In short, issues concerning the Taiwan Strait have important implications not only for the security of nearby countries but for the advancement of universal values.

For the sake of maintaining security, peace and stability in East Asia and protecting democracy and human rights, the world community - the United Nations in particular - should take preventive, constructive measures to address the mounting tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

A principal mission of the United Nations in the 21st century is to make the world safe for democracy and promote human freedom. Its effective action in removing threats to peace and security in the Taiwan Strait would serve as a powerful demonstration of its dedication to that intimately related mission.

Given the close connection of peace and stability in East Asia to that in other parts of the world, other organisations, governments and individuals need to use their good offices to promote dialogue and confidence-building measures across the Taiwan Strait.

- Cheng Wen-tsang is Minister in the Government Information Office, Republic of China (Taiwan).

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