Pacific Pivot, Taiwan Fulcrum Maritime Taiwan and Power Transition in Asia

May 1, 2014
The US Strategic Pivot to Asia and Cross-Strait Relations: Economic and Security Dynamics

The banner headline of the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper was printed in large bold characters:  “Promoting the establishment of a powerful maritime nation” (海洋强国) is “a major component of the mission of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”  Thus spake Party General Secretary Xi Jinping on August 1, 2013, a date celebrated in China as “Army Day.”  General Secretary Xi’s choice of Army Day for his declaration signaled that this was not a mere civilian goal, but  more significantly a military one. While the General Secretary acknowledged that China had thus far been more of a “major continental nation,” Twenty-First Century China now has “broad strategic maritime interests.” China “absolutely will not abandon its legitimate rights, still less will it sacrifice its core national interests.”[1] 

So, the world can take it as a given that “Building China into a Great Maritime Power” is now a core mission of the Chinese Communist Party. It is the opening stage of a “power transition” in Asia and the Pacific between China as the rising superpower and the United States as the status quo hegemon.  China now explicitly seeks a “new type of major-country relationship” with the United States, and China is fully aware that “major country relationships” in the past have been marked by “inevitable confrontation.”[2]

This is new.  For three millennia, through successive dynasties, kingdoms and confederations, the entity we today call “China” has been an immovably giant force in human civilization.  There have been centuries at a time when it was the most powerful empire on earth.  There were other centuries at a time when it was a conquered domain of barbarian invaders.  But never in all those millennia, with one brief exception, was China a maritime power. This is about to change.  

And in all those millennia, the island of Taiwan had been more or less inconsequential in human affairs.  But in the past century, that too has changed.  

In the twenty-first century, as both China and the United States embark on their separate “pivots to the Pacific,” Beijing certainly sees Taiwan as an essential element of maritime power projection in Asia and Pacific: “the ‘Lock on the Chain’ is Taiwan,” explained Youth Reference, a popular weekly published by the Communist Youth League in Beijing.[3]   But, as we shall see, Washington does not.  

This chapter considers Taiwan’s maritime importance to Pacific security in the context of power transition in the Asia-Pacific region, and suggests that the America’s bruited “pivot to the Pacific” ultimately must fail if Washington can find no place in it for Taiwan.  


For a mere flicker of time six centuries ago, between 1405 and 1433, China did rule the seas.  Seven great "treasure fleets" under commission of the Ming emperor Yongle (永樂) transited the Taiwan Strait fourteen times.  Each armada included sixty of the most colossal oceanic sailing ships the world had ever seen – or would see for the next four centuries.  Each was escorted by two hundred or so smaller support and trading vessels.  On each of seven voyages, Yongle's most trusted eunuch, the Han-Moslem admiral Zheng He (鄭和), commanded about 27,000 soldiers, seamen, diplomats and merchants on missions to various South Sea tributary kingdoms, scattered overseas Chinese colonies and distant realms as far as Hormuz and the Persian Gulf with exploratory expeditions even to Africa’s eastern shores. 

This, then, was the Ming Dynasty’s brief “pivot to the Indies.” The rising power, Tamerlane’s central Asian empire menaced the status quo hegemon Ming from its vast landmass in the west.  To counter it, Zheng He intended to outflank Tamerlane by sea and to find and recruit Islamic allies to his rear in the Gulf.[4] 

For twenty-seven years, a blip in China’s history, Zheng He's fleets made regular embassies to kingdoms in the southern ocean, his marine warriors battled rebels in Indonesia and Ceylon, his consuls lent imperial legitimacy to Chinese communities throughout Southeast Asia's islands.  “All nations under heaven,” it was recorded, sent tribute to the Yongle Emperor. The Ming History (明實錄) asserts “there was no one who did not present precious objects.”[5]  

No one, that is, except the headhunting aboriginal nations on Taiwan.  From the Ming Empire’s coastal waters, Treasure Fleet captains certainly spied across the Strait to the east snowy mountain ranges above distant mists on clear, breezy sailing days in those smog-free centuries before industrialization. Yet, the island of Taiwan (known in later Ming times by Chinese transliterations of aboriginal names such as Beigang [北港] or Jilong [雞籠] or even “Great Ryukyu” [大琉球] ) was never mentioned with Zheng He's missions.  Surely the mighty imperial treasure fleets had the wherewithal and the opportunity to pacify Taiwan if they were so inclined.  Instead they bypassed it.

And why not?  Even in the seventeenth century, savage Taiwan was “beyond the pale of civilization” (化外之地)[6], only emptiness lay beyond it.  It was a strategic gateway to nowhere.  Ming China’s naval ambitions rather attended to the “South Sea” routes bound for the “Great Western Ocean” of the Indies and Araby, not to the unending vastness of the unknown Pacific.

And when the threat from the Timurid Empire receded, supplanted by the chronic menace of myriad Altaic and Turkic clans in near north and central Asia, Yongle’s successors lost interest in the costly maritime “pivot to the Indies” and instead expended their empire’s resources in rebuilding the great landward walls of China which theretofore had moldered in disuse for a thousand years.  Even so, in the “South Sea” (according to the Ming Court’s Jesuit cartographer Matteo Ricci), “Great Ming” sovereignty stretched only as far south as the fifteenth parallel (十五度), far enough to encompass the Paracel Islands. The Spratly Islands, however, lay yet another 550 kilometers beyond the Ming claim, well south of the twelfth parallel.[7]  And to the east, Taiwan was to lay undisturbed by China for another two centuries.

Taiwan at the Pivot of Asia

From the late seventeenth century (when Altaic-speaking Manchurian hordes conquered China and pursued the last Ming loyalists who had sought refuge in Taiwan across the Strait) until 1895, Taiwan marked the Manchu Empire’s barbarian periphery.  Only in 1895, when Asia’s rising new superpower, Japan, seized the island from the Manchus and colonized it, did Taiwan find itself in the geographical center of metropolitan East Asia, along the most travelled sea routes of the Far East.  

In Japan’s failed power transition attempt of the 1941-1945 Pacific War, Taiwan was Japan’s springboard to South China, Southeast Asia and beyond.  Taiwan proved an obstacle to the American defeat of Japan as U.S. commanders in the Pacific pondered how to occupy the island without first denying Japanese defenses there of support of Japan’s armies on China’s coast.

With Japan’s defeat by the United States in 1945, Taiwan was in the middle of that East Asian “island chain” once famously declared by General Douglas MacArthur “a protective shield for all of the Americas and all free lands of the Pacific Ocean area.”  MacArthur, the most senior of America’s victorious commanders in the Pacific War, explained “from this island chain we can dominate with sea and air power every Asiatic port from Vladivostok to Singapore ... and prevent any hostile movement into the Pacific.”[8] 

In 1949, when the Chinese civil war resulted in a Soviet-allied “Communist China” on the mainland and a “Nationalist China” in exile on Taiwan, MacArthur was foreboding.  He observed at the onset of the 1950-53 Korean War that, within the “island chain”, Taiwan


in the hands of [a] hostile power could be compared to an unsinkable aircraft carrier and submarine tender ideally located to accomplish offensive strategy and at the same time checkmate defensive or counter-offensive operations by friendly forces based on Okinawa and the Philippines.[9] 


Moreover, MacArthur warned, “this unsinkable carrier-tender” would “threaten completely sea traffic from the south and interdict all sea lanes in the western Pacific.”

It is little remembered now that, in Washington’s most notorious partisan political drama of the early Cold War, General MacArthur was removed from his command largely because of his persistent advocacy of Taiwan’s strategic importance in winning the Korean conflict, a view that both President Truman and the State Department believed could provoke China into a wider war in Asia.[10]  It was the central point of the aged General’s farewell address to a joint session of the Republican-dominated Congress on May 21, 1951, in which he reiterated in the strongest terms, “I have strongly recommended in the past, as a matter of military urgency, that under no circumstances must Formosa [Taiwan] fall under Communist control.”  During the succeeding Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Taiwan was indeed integrated into America’s maritime defenses in the Western Pacific, primarily because the island sat astride aviation and merchant marine traffic on and above the Taiwan Strait.  (Taiwan remained a key link in the American Island Chain through the Vietnam War, and only in 1974 were U.S. nuclear weapons removed from Taiwan.[11])

By other quirks of fate, the “Republic of China” (ROC) regime-in-exile[12] on Taiwan also garrisoned two distal specks of islands, Pratas and Itu Aba, in the equally crucial air and sea lines of communication in the South China Sea denying them to Communist troops.

Following President Richard Nixon’s opening to China in July 1971, for reasons of diplomacy and comity with Peking (later “Beijing”), Washington policy eschewed for forty years all consideration of Taiwan’s geopolitical importance to the United States.  For forty years, such considerations really hadn’t been necessary because Taiwan seemed firmly committed to the camp of Asia’s democracies and because China’s military power seemed far from able to force the issue.  Until recently, there has been in Washington little or no consideration of Taiwan’s strategic centrality to America’s defense posture in the Western Pacific.  

This is changing.  Presaging a momentous new power transition in the Asia-Pacific, China has elbowed its way onto the international maritime stage.  China is now the world’s biggest trading nation, it is the world’s most massive industrial nation, its merchant marine among the world’s largest.  Chinese port-management companies operate some of the world’s biggest container ports, not just in China but across the globe, and are even more influential if China’s “special administrative region” of Hong Kong’s shipping and port conglomerates are factored in.

Unsurprisingly for a rising non-status quo power, Beijing now assembles a panoply of armed forces capable of molding East Asia’s security environment to its own liking.  Just as unsurprisingly, other major nations in Asia, from India to Japan—and just about everyone in between – are under pressure to build up their own defenses, pressure they had not felt since the end of World War II.

Today, the single exception seems to be Taiwan.  During the latter half of the last century, Taiwan devoted at least five percent – and as much as a quarter – of its economy to defense against China.  But unlike the rest of Asia, Taiwan’s twenty-first century defense spending has atrophied, its military manpower languishes under-trained, its equipment obsolescent.  This, in spite China’s relentless insistence that Taiwan must accept that it is, after all, part of China itself, and that Taiwan must acquiesce to unification with China.  Either that, or go to war.  

Now, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, the United States and its primary Pacific ally Japan are awakening to the realization that Taiwan is being absorbed inexorably into China’s security sphere.  Between 2008 and 2013, Taiwan has engaged in hostile coast guard confrontations at sea, not with China, but with Japan over maritime territories that the regimes in Taipei and Beijing jointly claim as “Chinese.”  

Taipei and Beijing no longer challenge each other.  China encourages Taiwan’s new strategic presence in the East and South China Seas.  Perhaps even more gratifying in Beijing is Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou’s scholarly exposition that


 . . . the Taiwan Strait requires no international delimitation since the ROC and the PRC are not foreign states inter se. There is presumably no room for applying international law.[13]


Taiwan’s maritime role in the twenty-first century Western Pacific hinges on China’s geopolitical intentions.  Power Transition Theory hypothesizes that when the rising power reaches 80 percent of the power of the dominant power, the rising power becomes a contender for the power of the dominant state.  “This is when war-initiation becomes more conceivable for the rising power.”[14]  China is a rising power, and “powerful states on the rise often fight wars with other major powers.” Several prominent international relations theorists see China as a “rising power” with little interest in maintaining a strategic “status quo” – similar to Germany and Japan in the first half of the last century.[15]  China sees itself in strikingly similar terms.  Since 2002, how the regime presents “China’s Rise” (中国的崛起) to the world has been a topic of controversy among Chinese Communist Party commentators and propagandists.[16]

Taiwan and China’s Rise

After World War II, China’s two rival regimes, communist and nationalist alike, had claimed nominal maritime dominion over both the entire South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.  But the world paid little attention because customary international law at the time restricted sovereignty to three nautical miles from land and because neither was in a position to enforce “Chinese” claims in any event.  Moreover, the U.S. Seventh Fleet patrolled the Strait with the explicit mission of keeping the two rivals from attacking each other.  Then, at the beginning of the 1970s, first Taipei, followed by Peking, staked an entirely new claim to the East China Sea continental shelf under an emerging international law of the sea doctrine, and to the Senkakus, a cluster of small then-uninhabited islets on the shelf administered by Japan.


Figure 1  The South China Sea maritime claims and exploration blocks in May 1995:  from the U.S. Department of State, Office of the Geographer (INR)



Troublingly, within the context of Chinese territorial assertions in the South China Sea, Taiwan's role was supportive. Chinese media claimed in 2006 that as early as 1974, Taiwan's “Republic of China” government opened up the Taiwan Strait to the transit of People's Liberation Army Naval (PLAN) warships in support a Chinese attack on South Vietnamese forces on the Yongle (永樂) island group in the Paracel (西沙) islands.[17]  In March 1988, according to Chinese media, PLAN warships anchored for a week at Itu Aba/Taiping Island, a ROC base, to take on food supplies during their battle with Vietnamese forces then occupying Johnson South Reef (known as Đá Gạc Ma in Vietnamese and Chigua Jiao 赤瓜礁 in Chinese).  Taiwan's Defense Minister Cheng Wei-yuan (鄭為元), “openly declared that if there was another war [in the Spratly chain] the Nationalist Army would assist the Liberation Army in a battle of resistance.”[18]  Supposedly, as late as 1993, ROC military officers would not rule out cooperation with China in the “development and management” of the Spratlys.[19]

For this reason, Chinese media in 2006 blasted Taiwan's former President Chen Shui-bian and his predecessor Lee Teng-hui for “junking the tacit understanding” that preserved Chinese sovereignty over the Spratlys (南沙).[20]  Chen Shui-bian's sin was to build a modern airstrip on Itu Aba/Taiping without consulting Beijing.  China responded by menacing the island with constant PLAN surveillance as the construction commenced.[21]

Vietnam, too, complained about Taiwan’s new airstrip on Itu Aba.  Hanoi claims the islands, and the Philippines has laid claim to others located to Itu Aba’s north and east. Both Hanoi and Manila now must calculate whether it is better to acquiesce to Taipei’s future cession of jurisdiction over Itu Aba to Beijing or to start encouraging Taiwan to persist as an international actor in the South China Sea in the hope that they might more reasonably deal with Taipei separately rather than with Beijing and Taipei combined.

China swiftly is tightening its strategic presence in the South China Sea.  By 2008, the deputy commander of the Chinese navy’s East Fleet, Admiral Zhang Huachen (张华臣), explained that “with the expansion of the country's economic interests, the navy wants to better protect the country's transportation routes and the safety of our major sea lanes.”  A retired PLA general was a bit more candid: “We kept silent about territory disputes with our neighbors in the past because our navy was incapable of defending our economic zones, but now the navy is able to carry out its task.”[22]  

            In all these territorial matters, the United States has professed not to have a view on the validity of China’s (and Taiwan’s) maritime claims in the South and East China Seas. (This despite the fact that the United States had legitimately occupied the Senkaku Islands under the terms of the Japanese surrender in 1945 and administered them in accordance with the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951, and had returned the islands legitimately to Japan under the terms of the Okinawa Reversion Treaty in 1972.[23])  The sole American requirement had been that China’s maritime claims be “resolved peacefully” and that “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, and the East China Sea be respected.[24] 

Nonetheless, by April 1, 2001, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) had begun to harass U.S. Navy operations in those waterways -- in an incident on April 1, a mid-air collision between a U.S. Navy reconnaissance aircraft and a Chinese fighter resulted in the death of the Chinese pilot and the two-week detention of the American crew by Chinese military forces on Hainan island.  The United States responded to most of this harassment with low-key protests.  The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, and America’s ensuing global war on terror, left Washington disinclined to publicize the deep strategic cleavages between the United States and China.  The administration of President George W. Bush, instead, papered-over problems with China to give an impression of friendliness and cooperation.

China and the “Pivot to Asia”

Even so, there is a growing alarm in Washington that Beijing intends to build China into the preeminent seapower in Asia and the Pacific, and concern that Beijing sees the United States as an interloper in its historical sphere of influence.[25]   By 2008, the Pentagon had begun publically to fixate on China’s “anti-access/area denial” doctrines for eliminating U.S. abilities to keep sealanes open in the Western Pacific and to resist Chinese naval pressures, not just on Taiwan, but on Japan and South China Sea littoral states.[26] 

On July 16, 2008, Admiral Timothy Keating, then the U.S. commander in the Pacific, recounted for a Washington think-tank audience a conversation he had had in Honolulu a few months earlier with a visiting Chinese “two-star” admiral.  The Chinese admiral 


... made the following proposition: ‘We, China, when we build our aircraft carriers ... you take from Hawaii east, we, China with our aircraft carriers will take Hawaii west.  You stay over here; we’ll stay over there.  We’ll share information with you back and forth, and we’ll save you the trouble of coming to the western Pacific.”[27]  


Nervous laughter tittered through the audience.  It was not so surprising that a Chinese admiral would think that, only that he would say it.

The Chinese admiral’s jocular proffer made an impression on his American host, however.  Admiral Keating repeated the story at least three times for the record that year, including once in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.[28] 

            Admiral Keating touted this anecdote perhaps because he had had enough of suffering in silence as Chinese ships interfered with his fleet’s operations.[29]  A new American president was inaugurated on January 20, 2009, and six weeks later, on March 8, 2009, Chinese naval harassment became more pronounced.  On that day, a PLA warship directed dozens of Chinese fishing boats to block the movement of a U.S. Navy survey vessel, the USNS Impeccable, in international waters 75 miles south of Hainan.[30]  Unlike previous confrontations, the U.S. Navy decided to publicize the Impeccable incident.[31]

In June 2009, in international waters about 140 miles northwest of Subic Bay, Philippines, a Chinese submarine monitored the movements of the Aegis destroyer USS John S. McCain apparently while the McCain was, in turn, monitoring a North Korean freighter suspected of illicitly transporting weapons to Burma.  The Chinese submarine collided with a submerged sonar array which the USS McCain had been trailing behind it, and cut the array’s towing cables, perhaps deliberately.[32] 

            At the southern end of the South China Sea where China’s maritime claims abut Indonesia’s, Indonesian authorities detained eight Chinese fishing boats and arrested 75 illegal Chinese fishermen.  A year later, in the summer of 2010, Indonesian patrol vessels again confronted a fleet of ten Chinese fishing boats, but this time, a Chinese “fishery management vessel” (described as a “repurposed heavy gunboat”) threatened to fire on the Indonesian coast guard ships.  Moreover, the Chinese boats were not even in waters claimed by China, but in Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) near Natuna Island.[33]  One analyst believes that massive overfishing in Chinese waters have left coastal fisheries in “a state of near collapse,” and this has prompted the Beijing government to encourage its fleet of 300,000 fishing boats to go farther asea – a migration that now brings regular clashes in its neighbors’ fishing grounds that China now claims as its own.[34]  

In recent years, China’s military has systematically occupied several clusters of submerged coral reefs in the Spratlys west of the southern Philippine island of Palawan, secretly emplacing huge caissons of concrete in their shallow water and constructing massive platforms and anchorages.[35]  The first new Chinese military platforms appeared atop Mischief Reef in 1995, and the Philippines has been complaining about them ever since.  In May 2011, the Philippines air force spotted several new structures in the Spratly island group, all complete with satellite communications, air defense cannons, and 300 meter-long cargo docks.  The discovery coincided with the visit to Manila of China’s defense minister, General Liang Guanglie (梁光烈) who, without a hint of irony, proceeded to sign a communiqué with his Philippines counterpart which urged that “unilateral actions which could cause alarm should be avoided.”[36] 

            As if to rationalize its new belligerence, China also set about declaiming that it now has “core interests” in the South China Sea. In March, 2010, according to The Washington Post, Chinese assistant foreign minister Cui Tiankai (崔天凯)  explained to two senior U.S. officials that his country viewed its claims to the South China Sea on a par with its claims to Tibet and Taiwan.[37] This was reportedly the first time China had defined the South China Sea to be as central to China’s security as Taiwan.[38] Thereafter, Chinese diplomats proclaimed a “core interest” in the South China Sea to progressively more senior Americans—and Southeast Asians as well.[39] In tandem, Chinese security scholars declared in the official media that “by adding the South China Sea to its core interests, China has shown its determination to secure its maritime resources and strategic waters.”[40]

These incidents, and several others, were emblematic of China’s proprietary posture in the South China Sea, a posture that had become unbearable not just for the major South China Sea states, but for the United States as well. Addressing the annual Asian Security Summit in Singapore (also known as the “Shangri-La Dialogue”) on June 5, 2010, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates countered China’s “core interest” rhetoric with his own declaration of “the longstanding belief of the U.S. government that a peaceful and non-coerced resolution to the Taiwan issue is an abiding national interest—and vital for the overall security of Asia.”[41]

            Other senior American officials also began explicating America’s “national interests” in the South China Sea.  Speaking at the Asian Regional Forum (ARF) in Hanoi on July 23, 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for a binding international code of conduct for the states claiming disputed islands in the South China Sea, including China, as well as a formal international process for resolving those claims.  “The United States has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia's maritime commons and respect for international law in the South China Sea,” Clinton asserted.[42]  China’s foreign minister immediately characterized the U.S. stance as an “attack” on China, adding ingenuously that “nobody believes there's anything that is threatening the region's peace and stability.”[43]

            In June 2012, China’s State Council formally incorporated the entire South China Sea as “Sansha Municipality” (三沙) under the Hainan Provincial Government covering the “three sand” island groups of the Paracels (“West Sand”西沙), Spratly Islands (“South Sand” 南沙) and Macclesfield Bank (“Middle Sand” 中沙) with jurisdiction over 2 million square kilometers of the South China Sea.[44]  In November 2013, the Hainan provincial government issued formal “measures” requiring all “foreign vessels entering sea areas administered by Hainan and engaged in fishery production or fishery resource surveys should be approved by the relevant State Council department in charge.”[45]




Figure 2 The Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea


In the East China Sea, Beijing’s territorial claims on Japanese maritime space became ever more pugnacious, as if to show Southeast Asian powers that China was so confident of its strength that it would challenge China’s rival economic giant to the northeast while it simultaneously harassed smaller states in the South.  It stepped up its belligerence in the Senkaku Islands in 2010, and continues the pressure without letup.  And in China’s showdowns with Japan, Taiwan has played a supporting role against Japan, much to the chagrin of the United States.[46] 


By September 2013, Japan’s air self defense forces was scrambling record numbers of interceptors to monitor airspace incursions by Chinese aircraft, including at least two PLA Air Force H-6 long-range bombers.  By late October 2013, Chinese bombers had transited the Japan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) between Okinawa and Miyako islands for several days in a row.[47]   “Scrambles” frequency had risen from 15 times in June to over 69 times by mid-September.[48]  On August 30, Japan’s defense minister Itsunori Onodera announced that his ministry was seeking the biggest increase in defense spending in 22 years in an effort to counter a more assertive Chinese military posture.[49]


In the lead up to all this, it was incumbent upon the United States to come up with a better strategy to deal with China’s territorial assertiveness.  And that strategy came to be called variously the “rebalancing,” the “pivot to Asia” or the “pivot to the Pacific”.  In 2009, the Pentagon in tandem, began preparing a new “AirSea Battle” doctrine as a framework for defense planning in the Asia-Pacific region.  The AirSea Battle concept, articulated in a scholarly paper by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in May 2010, presumed that a confrontation in the Western Pacific/South China Sea would rely on friendly regional powers for land forces, to be supported by U.S. air and sea superiority.  

Although U.S. commanders absolutely refused to admit it in public, the only putative adversary was China.[50]  The CSBA analysis was blunt: “Today, it is incontestable that the only state with the long-term potential to pose a serious and sustained challenge to US influence and power projection in its region for the foreseeable future is China.”[51]

            On October 11, 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the United States “stands at a pivot point” and would “lock in a substantially increased investment . . . in the Asia-Pacific Region.”[52]  The “pivot” metaphor became the nickname for America’s renewed strategic focus in the Pacific.  On November 16, 2011, President Barak Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a joint US-Australia rotating U.S. Marine presence in northern Australia. President Obama’s launch of America’s “pivot” back to Asia came after a decade of exhausting -- and bank-breaking -- strategic overstretch in Iraq and Afghanistan.[53]  It was not as if the challenge of rising peer-competitor powers in the Pacific was anything new to the United States.  It just seemed like it. 


But Taiwan was missing from the “pivot” and from “AirSea Battle,” a conspicuous absence.[54]  

Taiwan’s maritime footprint

            It is a given that America’s primary security goal in the Asia-Pacific region is the preservation of the maritime commons (and the airspace above), and the numbers confirm that the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and the East China Sea together constitute a most vital maritime commons for America’s Asia-Pacific partners and allies.  From the northern approach to the Taiwan Strait abutting Japan’s Senkaku islands, through the Taiwan Strait itself and Taiwan’s exclusive economic zone sweeping 200 nautical miles eastward into the Western Pacific, and on into the South China Sea where Taiwan’s Pratas Reef (東沙礁) sits at the north and where Taiwan’s Itu Aba island (太平) dominates the the Sea’s southern Spratly island chain, Taiwan has an outsized geographical influence amid those maritime commons.

As of 2012, Taiwan’s commercial shipping fleet was the world’s sixth largest after Greece, Japan, Germany, China, South Korea and the United States,[55] and three of the world’s top 20 merchant shipping operators were Taiwan companies (two were Chinese and one from Hong Kong).[56]

            More than half the world’s international trade transits the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait each year, totaling over 117,000 ships displacing 4.7 billion deadweight tons as of 2007.[57]  Most Japanese and South Korean energy supplies traverse them, as do all China’s sea routes to Asia, Australia, Africa, and Europe.   

            Hard numbers on transits of specific waterways are always difficult to assemble, but Taipei’s defense ministry confidentially compiles them for the Taiwan Strait and sometimes releases them.  For example, in the year ending August 15, 2002, a total of 259,086 civilian aircraft transited the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) while 246,015 international commercial ships transited the Taiwan Strait and routes eastward of Taiwan, for a daily average of about 675 ship transits.[58] The Dover Strait in 2002 saw a daily average of 400–500 ships over 300 tons in transit. About 90,000 ships pass through the Strait of Gibraltar annually; about 50,000 ships a year pass through the Straits of Malacca. The Suez Canal processes about 55–60 transits a day while the more constricted Panama Canal manages just 40–44.[59] 

            Three of the world's major container ports (Kaohsiung, Hong Kong, Shenzhen-Yantian) abut the Taiwan Strait alone. Growth in their maritime cargo throughput has been immense.  One study done in 2002[60] suggested that ports in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan together would process 86 million TEUs (“twenty-foot equivalent” unit cargo containers) by 2010, much of which “will come from increased cross-strait cargo,” and “will account for over 40% of Asia’s total container cargo and about 20% of the world’s total container cargo.” Chinese ports alone accounted for 80 million TEUs by 2006,[61] and by 2011, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan together in fact accounted for 183 million TEUs.[62]

Normally, China acquiesces in Taiwan’s administration of its EEZ, content so long as Taipei considers Taiwan to be “part of China.”  But in an unprecedentedly cheeky gesture in April 2009, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs formally complained to the U.S. Embassy about U.S. scientific research near Taiwan’s Pratas Island.  The US- flagged National Science Council research vessel R/V Marcus Langseth operated by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory was conducting tsunami soundings near Pratas Reef, with the full license of the Taipei government. 

            Regardless, the Beijing MFA charged that the Langseth was in “PRC waters” without the formal permission of China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA).  An SOA ship hailed the Langseth and ordered it to depart “Chinese” waters.  While the U.S. Embassy in Beijing (under instructions from the Department of State) asserted that the Langseth was not “in what we understand to be China's EEZ,” the Chinese foreign ministry nonetheless “sincerely hoped that the area the United States ‘believed to be within China's EEZ’ was consistent with the area China regarded as its EEZ.”  

            According to the Department of State, “In response to the PRC actions, the Langseth changed course and headed east toward the Philippines.”  The State Department even informed its embassy in Beijing that “the NSF plans to direct the Langseth to avoid conducting research in the areas claimed by Beijing in its recent demarche (EEZ generated by Pratas Islands).”  Washington seemed to hope the whole affair would just go away.  The Chinese MFA had made several complaints about the Langseth in the run-up to an April 1, 2009, London meeting between President Obama and General Secretary Hu Jintao, apparently in a Chinese attempt to pressure the US government into restricting survey activity in the Western Pacific.  There is no indication that the U.S. State Department forcefully asserted the right of U.S. vessels to be in Taiwan-administered waters without PRC permission.[63] 

            Four years earlier, in 2005, Taiwan had sought U.S. support in dealing with Chinese fishery and environmental despoliation in Pratas, but the U.S. State Department pointedly demurred.  Without moral support from the United States, Taiwan’s coast guard chief ruefully noted “that PRC exploration in the disputed [South] China Sea has effectively marginalized Taiwan’s ability to enforce its EEZ claims there.” Tellingly, the State Department’s office in Taipei (the American Institute in Taiwan) blamed the Taiwan Coast Guard’s confrontations with “PRC survey ships” near Pratas on inadequate inter-agency coordination and personality clashes within the Taipei government rather than on Chinese new aggressive claims of authority over Taiwan’s EEZ.[64] 

            In hindsight, Washington’s non-action seems a case of “avoidance-avoidance anxiety”; rather than address China’s behavior, the State Department instead sought to minimize Taiwan’s concerns.  It is quite likely that Washington’s scant regard for Taiwan’s agitation over the 2005 Pratas encounters and its dismissal of them as Taiwan’s problem alone led Beijing to calculate that the U.S. would get into the habit of avoiding future, more aggressive Chinese behavior in the South China Sea.

East Asia’s Coast Guard and Maritime Enforcement Context 

            All the actors in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait and the East China Sea appreciate the potential for a dispute over maritime rights to blow-up into armed conflict.  As a result, all actors seem to have conscious policies to minimize the involvement of naval surface combatants and instead use nominally-civilian coast guard vessels and aircraft for enforcement and displays of the flag.  

            Of all these countries, China has been the most aggressive in expanding its white-hulled coast guard fleet, which boasts 13 ships in the 1000-4000 ton class. 

Since 2004, the PLA Navy has transferred 11 warships to China Marine Surveillance, including two guided missile destroyers, a 4300-ton icebreaker, a survey vessel, a transport ship and several naval tugboats.  The largest of the civilian ships carry Z-9 helicopters. (Z-9C rotary winged aircraft carry a typical load of four TL-10 anti-ship guided missiles or two 57 mm rockets or 20mm cannon pods and can disable or sink ships up to frigate size); China’s two Type 053H coast guard frigates also mount type 61 37mm twin open top machine gun turrets forward.[65]  The Chinese coast guard fleet now operates about 400 seagoing vessels and at least 10 aircraft.[66]

            On March 10, 2013, China formally combined its Coast Guard (中国海警) , China Maritime Surveillance (中国海监), Maritime Border Control Department (中国海事局), Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (中国渔政) and marine customs (中国海关) into a substantial white fleet under the authority of  State Oceanic Administration (国家海洋局).  It also announced that it would add 36 modern cutters and patrol ships to its civilian coast guard fleet over the next five years.[67] However, China’s civilian maritime force seems less designed to police environmentally-sensitive marine ecologies, administer fisheries or interdict smuggling, but rather (as one U.S. Navy intelligence officer points out) serves as a “full-time maritime sovereignty harassment organization.”[68]

Unlike China, Japan’s Coast Guard (海上保安庁) has no guided missile destroyers, but it maintains an equally impressive fleet of roughly 455 vessels and 75 aircraft.  In October 2012, spurred by China’s incursions in the Senkaku Islands, the Japanese Diet authorized nearly $200 million in additional funds for new Coast Guard ships and modernization.  In August, 2013, the Diet authorized an additional $150 million for the construction of ten new helicopter cutters.[69]  

In the South China Sea, the Philippine coast guard is inadequate even for its own domestic enforcement role much less to challenge Chinese coast guard intrusions. It has a total of 15 craft.  In July, 2013, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Philippines President Benigno Aquino announced Japan would provide 10 new coast guard patrol ships to the Philippines, reportedly briefing journalists that the move was “with an eye on what China is doing in the region.”[70]  On August 6, 2013, the second of two decommissioned U.S. coast guard cutters (transferred to the Philippines as excess U.S. defense equipment) were commissioned in the Philippine navy.[71]  The Philippine coast guard, however, appears to be less disciplined and professional.  In May 2013, a Philippine cutter shot up an unarmed and apparently inoffensive Taiwan fishing boat, the Kuang Ta Hsing No. 28, near the Batan Islands in the Bashi Channel between Taiwan and Luzon.  The Taiwan vessel was clearly in Philippine waters, but those waters were within 200 nautical miles from Taiwan, waters where Taiwan’s EEZ overlapped the Philippines EEZ, and waters in which the two countries have never formally negotiated fisheries jurisdictions.  A subsequent investigation demonstrated that the Philippine coast guardsmen had fired nearly 200 machine gun rounds broadside into the Taiwanese boat, killing its master, and belying initial Philippine claims that the Taiwanese boat had attempted to “ram” the Philippine cutter.  The incident caused an international furor and outrage in Taiwan against the Philippine government.  The impression was left that the Philippine coast guard, which had far more pressing threats from Chinese fishermen and Chinese maritime enforcement vessels in the South China Sea, was instead picking on what it thought were defenseless Taiwanese fishing boats which posed no real problem and which were in waters far distant from the Philippines main threat.  The Taiwan-Philippine crisis inflamed by the attack was a national embarrassment for Manila which was obliged to apologize, criminally charge the coast guard personnel involved and pay reparations to the fishing boat owners.[72]

In contrast to the Philippines civilian enforcement fleet, Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration (海岸巡防署) ranks as one of Asia's most professional and sophisticated.  While the powerful legislative caucus of Taiwan's Nationalist party (國民黨-KMT) opposed defense spending during eight years when Taiwan's executive branch was controlled by the pro-independence (and hence, anti-China) Democratic Progressive Party (民進黨 – DPP), under constituent pressure from Taiwan's fisheries and merchant marine industries, the KMT lavishly funded civilian maritime capacity-building.  Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration was organized in 2000 to combine the ministry of defense coast guard, the national marine police, and customs.  The CGA fleet now includes eight large cutters, and about 150 patrol vessels.[73]

That the white hulls of Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration have the capacity to operate in blue waters far from Taiwan's coastline was amply demonstrated in February 2008, when literally half of Taiwan's naval and CGA assets, including two Kidd-Class destroyers and two submarines were deployed to Itu Aba/Taiping island to provide security for the visit of then-president Chen Shui-bian to the island.  Taiwan's CGA also has a 200-man contingent on Pratas reef where they perform essential environmental protection and fisheries administration missions.[74] 

The CGA's effectiveness, together with the determination of President Ma Ying-jeou's government to reduce the chance of naval confrontations with China, has persuaded Taiwan's legislature to move formerly Navy responsibilities to the Coast Guard Administration.  Ma's government is appropriating an additional US$767 million between 2009 and 2017 to acquire larger vessels for the CGA.  In explaining this move, President Ma said:


. . . the traditional wisdom has been 'on the sea we count on the Navy', but in protecting security on the seas, one can't rely only on the Navy, we must also rely on the policing strength of the Coast Guard.[75]  


The shift of focus of Taiwan's government toward Coast Guard capacity building and away from naval strength suggests that this will become an increasingly important policy initiative in Taiwan's ongoing rapprochement with the People's Republic on the other side of the Strait.  


Taiwan's Maritime Context

Considering the sizes of its merchant fleet and coast guard, shipbuilding capacity, seaport cargo tonnage, international transit of sealanes within national jurisdiction, Taiwan clearly ranks among the world’s major maritime nations.  Taiwan's is the 11th largest merchant fleet,[76] the fourth largest builder of bulk carriers by tonnage, and one of the larger Coast Guard operations in East Asia.[77]  Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration operates in about 50,000 km2 territorial and adjacent waters immediately surrounding Taiwan; 6800 km2 around Pratas Atoll (some 400 km from Taiwan), and a theoretical 2900 km2 EEZ around Itu Aba/Taiping in the Spratly chain (1200 km from Taiwan) although coast guard operations in Itu Aba and Pratas are limited by Chinese maritime activities that virtually surround it.[78]

Important or promising seabed hydrocarbon and mineral deposits[79] are also within Taiwan's maritime jurisdiction – or claimed jurisdiction.  Like China, Taiwan's “Republic of China” government persists in a broad territorial sea claim in the South China Sea which includes several potential undersea gas fields within an EEZ surrounding Itu Aba/Taiping island and surrounding Chinese-occupied islets.  

Itu Aba is the biggest of the southern South China Sea islands, and the only one with a fresh water supply (thus qualifying the island for a 200-nm EEZ as “capable of sustaining human habitation”) and a modern airstrip – a 1,150-meter concrete pad suited for military operations. In September 2013, Taiwan announced plans for a $100 million infrastructure program on the island to include deepwater pier extending 320 meters from shore, and airfield lengthening for the island.[80]  

Similarly, there are seabed hydrocarbon deposits within the EEZ surrounding Pratas Reef.  

In 2008, Chinese and Taiwan oil companies signed memoranda of understanding on exploration of potential hydrocarbon deposits in the Wu-ch'iu, Nan-chih sectors along the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait.[81]  

U.S. defense commitment to Taiwan

There is a common misapprehension among casual observers of Washington’s policy toward Taiwan that the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act (TRA)[82] is a statement of America’s defense commitment to the island.  Indeed, the Act states “It is the policy of the United States ... to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force of other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, of the social or economic system, of the people of Taiwan”[83] and “the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.”[84]  While the executive branch did take this congressional statement of policy as a mandate during the Reagan years, successive administrations have honored it more in the breach than the observance.  

In 1992, President George H.W. Bush, approved the sale of 150 F-16A fighters to Taiwan only under extreme electoral pressure from his home state of Texas, while Taiwan’s requests for new F-16s since then have been rebuffed despite internal Pentagon assessments that Taiwan sorely needed the new aircraft in order to maintain a military balance in the Strait.  One senior Obama Administration Taiwan expert confided to the author in 2011 that the Pentagon had recommended that Taiwan now needs even more advanced fighter aircraft with a vertical/short take-off capabilities.  Nonetheless, the Obama Administration had denied all Taiwan’s requests for new fighter interceptors on the theory that Cross-Strait rapprochement had reduced Taiwan’s “self-defense capability” needs.  It is generally appreciated in the U.S. Defense Department not only that Taiwan does not have a sufficient “self-defense capability” vis-à-vis China, but that the United States no longer “maintains the capacity” to “resist the use of force” against Taiwan.[85]

On April 25, 2001, then-president George W. Bush approved a multi-billion dollar arms package for Taiwan which even included notional, non-existent conventional submarines (a package costing more than nuclear submarines and, hence, was not pursued), but no new fighter aircraft.  President Bush’s decision seemed to be impelled by his annoyance at China over the April 1 Hainan incident.  Despite the opportunity to procure new defensive weapons systems from the U.S., however, Taiwan’s majority-Kuomintang legislature blocked Taiwan’s armed services from moving ahead with the package for another seven years.   After the Kuomintang candidate, Ma Ying-jeou, ascended to Taiwan’s presidency in 2008, he and his top aides regularly beseeched their American counterparts for approval of new F-16s, Blackhawk helicopters, assistance in constructing new submarines and vastly more anti-missile defense systems than the U.S. had theretofore provided.  

A consistent theme in these requests was Taiwan’s impotence – without a credible U.S. security commitment – in its détente attempts with China.  At least once, a senior Taiwan security official insisted that “The sale of the F-16C/Ds, which both sides of the Strait see as a key sign of the U.S. defense commitment, would be an important factor in Taiwan’s ability to pursue [confidence-building measures] with China.”  President Ma Ying-jeou stressed “Arms sales -- and F-16 C/Ds in particular -- were important militarily but were also a ‘litmus test’ of the U.S. relationship.” As American reluctance to supply these defense articles persisted, Taiwan’s media became increasingly alarmed that the United States’ defense commitment was in fact weakening in the face of Chinese pressures.  Leaked diplomatic cables dating between 2008 and 2010 record that official American interlocutors deflected these concerns with soothing reassurances that  “senior U.S. officials were looking at the remaining items from the 2001 package of weapons systems . . . to see whether a decision could be made in the near future.”[86]  

The “near future” presumably was something less than two years.  But by the beginning of 2012, the White House continued to sit on Taiwan’s request for new fighter aircraft.  In reaction, Texas Senator John Cornyn (in whose state the fighters would be manufactured) put a “hold” on the confirmation of a senior defense department assistant secretary until his misgivings about the Obama administration’s Taiwan policy had been addressed.  On April 27, 2012, a White House letter was successful in getting Senator Cornyn to release his “hold.”  The White House insisted that it recognized the urgency and severity of the burgeoning fighter gap between China and Taiwan and pledged that the new “assistant secretary ... will play a lead role as the administration decides on a near term course of action on how to address Taiwan’s fighter gap, including through the sale to Taiwan of an undetermined number of U.S.-made fighter aircraft.”[87]  However, two years after that letter, the Obama Administration remained disinclined to “address Taiwan’s fighter gap.”  Taiwan, it seems, is a country of little consequence in the new U.S. “pivot to Asia.” 

Regardless of how one juggles the data, Taiwan is a jurisdiction of significant importance in international maritime operations and a future confederation with China will logarithmically enhance China's comprehensive maritime power.

It seems likely that Taiwan will continue to transfer maritime defense responsibilities away from its navy and to the coast guard over the coming years.  Given the current state of Taiwan's military and naval defenses, Taiwan is already hopelessly outgunned.[88]  Evidence suggests that long-term KMT sentiments see little need for Taiwan's defenses if Taiwan did not intend to become independent.[89]

A Beijing-Taipei Maritime Axis?

Taiwan’s independence, it seems, is the last thing on the KMT mind.  It is now less a question of “if” Taiwan and China will ever reach a “peace accord” that will finally resolve Taiwan's status within the Chinese political state, than of “when.”  And the “when” will probably come sooner – within a few years – rather than later.   Over the next three years, East Asian littoral states will have to come to terms with China’s preeminence in their maritime space.  Nonetheless, Washington may yet have an opportunity to shape – while it still can – a post- China/Taiwan “peace accord” maritime environment by integrating Taiwan into cooperative regional maritime arrangements that will preserve the status quo by addressing Taiwan’s maritime jurisdiction issues before a “peace accord” forecloses all options.

            Beijing and Taipei are on the verge of a geopolitically momentous tectonic shift in the Western Pacific. Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou has implemented an "Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement" that promises to integrate inextricably Taiwan's entire economy with China's.  By the end of his tenure in 2016, or even sooner, President Ma hopes to have signed a "peace agreement" with his Chinese Communist Party counterpart.[90] Beijing has no doubt that Ma's status as the “Nationalist Party” party chairman will allow him to negotiate "on an equal footing" with his “Communist Party” counterpart to bring a conclusion to the 1949 Chinese civil war.[91]  Whether Ma will have the necessary popular backing for such a move is problematic, but his closest political partners evidently see him inclined toward “political negotiations” if the opportunity presents itself.  Unlike all his predecessors, he doesn’t rule it out.[92]  

Given the current correlation of forces in Asia:  China's determination to absorb Taiwan; American and Japanese unwillingness to interpose any objections to Taiwan's ultimate integration with China; and the fact that there are no national level elections in Taiwan until 2016 that might potentially alter its trajectory into China’s orbit, it seems unlikely that Taiwan can persist long as a truly independent political actor in the region.

            This presents Washington and virtually all other East Asian and Southeast Asian littoral states with a thorny conundrum:  How to deal with a Beijing-Taipei axis that has expanded territorial and exclusive economic zone claims in the Western Pacific and the South China Sea.  Will the Taiwan Strait become a Chinese "inland waterway"?  Will the EEZ and territorial seas encircling Pratas Reef govern shipping and fisheries in the Bashi Channel and collide with the interests of the Philippines?  Will Taiwan’s substantial infrastructure on Itu Aba Island in the southernmost South China Sea become a Chinese baseline from which to enforce Beijing's peculiar territorial and EEZ demarcations in conflict with Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and possibly Indonesia?  Finally, how will a new China/Taiwan entity address ongoing fisheries and seabed delimitations with Japan in the East China Sea?  

Japanese concerns about Taiwan’s cooperation with China over the Senkakus controversy heightened in September 2010 when, as China escalated its own war of nerves over the islands – the deputy commander of Taiwan’s Coast Guard, Wang 

Chung-yi (王祟儀) secretly hosted Chinese vice minister of Public Security Chen Zhimin (陈智敏).[93]  While Taipei’s Wang and Beijing’s Chen conferred on September 14, Wang ordered a dozen Taiwan coast guard boats to accompany a lone Taiwan “fishing boat” out to the Senkakus where together they confronted eight Japanese coast guard ships.[94]  

            In September 2012, the Taipei government encouraged a fleet of 40 fishing boats to descend upon the Senkaku Islands, under escort of 10 Taiwan coast guard vessels, to underscore Taipei’s “Republic of China” claim on the islands.  When the flotilla approached within five miles of the islands, it was confronted by 21 Japanese patrol boats which showered the Taiwanese fishing boats with water cannon.   The Taiwan CGA escort ships responded by firing water cannons at their Japanese counterparts and blared over loudspeakers in Chinese, “This is Taiwan’s territorial waters. You should not interfere with the operations of our fishermen.”[95]   Tensions were exacerbated by the menacing presence in the distance of several Chinese coast guard ships.  

            The water gun fight between Taiwan and Japan angered Washington.  Just a few weeks earlier, the State Department had once again asserted that the United States “sees [the Senkakus] falling under the scope of Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Treaty.”[96]  In plain English, Washington is bound by alliance obligations to aid Japan in defending the islands. Washington’s annoyance at Taipei’s irresponsibility reportedly was registered with senior Taiwan defense officials at several meetings in October 2012.[97]

            Japanese-Chinese frictions over the Senkaku Islands are well understood, but EEZ, fisheries and territorial seas claims between Northeastern Taiwan and Japan's southernmost islands of Yonaguni, Miyako and Yaeyama are also in flux.  The 2003 "temporary enforcement line" agreed upon between Taiwan and Japan in waters east of Taiwan is just that, "temporary".[98]  On April 10, 2013, Japan and Taiwan did reach an “agreement on the establishment of a new order in the fishing industry,” a high point in 17 years of desultory fisheries talks between Tokyo and Taipei, in which Japan agreed to permit Taiwanese fishing within the Senkaku Island’s 200-mile EEZ, in return for which Taipei agreed that Taiwanese fishing boats would not enter the 12-mile territorial waters around the islands.  Tokyo clearly was eager to defuse genuine fisheries tensions in the waters and saw the agreement as an opportunity to delink Taipei and Beijing.  Taipei seemed delighted to take-the-money-and-run, despite its acquiescence to Japan’s 12-mile territorial claim around the Senkakus, and insisted at the conclusion of the agreement that it had not given up Taiwan’s claim to the islands.[99]  

            In February 2013, before talks on the Japan-Taiwan fisheries pact had restarted, President Ma Ying-jeou confided to a group of China-based Taiwanese businessmen that he did not see any prospect of coordinating with Beijing on China-Taiwan Senkakus claims.  Nonetheless, he reportedly admitted that “China has hoped his administration would refrain from touching upon the issue of sovereignty over the Diaoyutais [Senkakus] with Japan after Taipei and Tokyo resume talks on fishing rights in the area.”[100]  How President Ma knew what Beijing “hoped” is debatable; and indeed Beijing’s reaction to the fisheries agreement was perfunctory and pro forma.[101]

            The unsettling Beijing-Taipei harassment in the Senkakus area prompted U.S. military and naval commanders in the region to rethink naval and air arrangements with Taiwan.  Part of that rethink involved pushing back their Korean War era boundaries of Taiwan’s “air defense identification zone” (ADIZ) jurisdiction away from Japan’s westernmost island of Yonaguni.  The anachronistic East China Sea ADIZ lines had been drawn by the American military government in Okinawa in the 1950s to help coordinate military and civilian aircraft operations and identification with Nationalist Chinese and American forces in U.S.-administered Okinawa. 50 year later, Taiwan’s eastern ADIZ (at 123 degrees east longitude) bisected Yonaguni island, leaving the Japanese air base there incongruously within Taiwan’s ADIZ.  Press reports indicate that Tokyo’s decision to push the ADIZ westward toward Taiwan was prompted by the Americans, but it was not discussed at all with Taiwan’s military which reacted negatively.[102]  

            A China/Taiwan accommodation will leave all coastal East Asian states from Indonesia to Japan – as well as other global actors including the United States and India – facing an entirely new geopolitical context that will influence core national interests from fisheries, sea and air transportation routes, seabed resource exploitation, security and piracy cooperation, and environmental protection to naval power balances.  

In the course of negotiating any “peace agreement” with China, it is unlikely that Taiwan’s President Ma would have any leverage with Beijing that would permit him to secure Taiwan's independence of action in maritime affairs.  Nonetheless, Taiwan's continued maritime independence is obviously in the interests of Taiwan's neighbors in East and Southeast Asia – if only to keep the maritime real estate presently administered by Taiwan out of China's hands.

            Future History

East Asia is on the cusp of a power transition as China, now reaching the hypothetical 80 percent of the comprehensive power of the United States, views itself as a competitor for geopolitical preeminence in the region.  Washington, wary of Beijing’s territorial aggressiveness against neighbors from India, through the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, to Japan, unsettled by Beijing’s support and succor for illiberal powers in Asia from North Korea to Iran and Syria, and alarmed at Beijing’s ruthless mercantilism, maneuvers to counterbalance China with a “pivot” to the Pacific. 

Alas, current trends suggest future historians of America’s “Pacific Pivot” will adjudge it to have been doomed from the start because, unlike American island-chain strategy of the last century, there is no place in it for Taiwan.  Future historians will deem the substance of American “strategy” to have been incapable of preserving the country’s geopolitical and economic interests in a pivotal Western Pacific maritime power or of sustaining American leadership in the region.  

            Conversely, future historians will judge China’s twenty-first century “Pacific Presence” to have been assured by Beijing’s well-planned, deft and relentless diplomatic isolation of Taiwan and its steady alienation of Taiwan from America’s security network over the preceding half-century.  China’s twenty-first century maritime supremacy is likely to be vastly more enduring than its brief Ming Dynasty predecessor.





[1] “习近平在中共中央政治局第八次集体学习时强调进一步关心海洋认识海洋经略海洋推动海洋强国建设不断取得成就”[Xi Jinping at Eighth Collective Study Session of the Chinese Communist Party Central Politburo emphasizes achieving new strides in concern for the sea, maritime knowledge, managing maritime strategy, and promoting the establishment of a powerful maritime nation], People’s Daily (人民日报), August 1, 2013, page 1, at  

[2] At his joint press remarks with President Obama at the June 8, 2013, summit at Sunnylands Retreat in California, Chinese leader Xi Jinping mentioned “a new model of major-country relationship” four times, explaining that “China and the United States must find a new path -- one that is different from the inevitable confrontation and conflict between the major countries of the past.”  President Obama made no mention of it.  See transcript of “Remarks by President Obama and President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China After Bilateral Meeting,” White House Office of the Press Secretary, June 8, 2013, at (accessed 2/7/14). 


[3] "The 'Lock on the Chain' is Taiwan Island, the Center of Gravity is in Japan -- The Chinese Navy Plots To Break Through the 'Island Chain Blockade'" [“链锁”是台岛 重心在日本, 中国海军谋划破解“岛链封锁”]; Qingnian Cankao, October 31, 2012, p. 18, at (accessed 2/7/14) . 

[4] Edward L. Dreyer, “The Myth of ‘One China’”, in Peter C.Y. Chow, ed, The “One China” Dilemma, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2012, p. 24.  Edward L. Dreyer, Zheng He, China and the Oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty, 1405-1433, Pearson Longman, London, 2007, route map on p. 36. Professor Dreyer describes how Tamerlane “insulted and imprisoned” the imperial Chinese embassy sent to Baghdad which was to announce Yongle’s succession to the Ming throne. Dreyer notes that “the usual Chinese claims to preeminence were in conflict with Tamerlane’s own idea of his place in the world.”  1403 was the year that the Yongle Emperor ordered Zheng He to begin building the Ming armada.  Says Dreyer, “the Tamerlane factor” was “probably important” because Yongle chose the Muslim Zheng He as his mission commander. See pp. 60-61.  Louise Levathes acknowledges that Tamerlane had sent a land army of 200,000 into Central Asia to invade China in January 1405, but the invasion fizzled when Tamerlane died a bare two weeks after the expeditionary force set out.  Louise Levathes, When China Ruled the Seas, Oxford University Press, 1994, pp. 125-6.  While Levathes discounts the Tamerlane factor in Yongle’s decision, Dreyer, a scholar of ancient China’s military history, saw convincing resonance with the Han Dynasty’s strategies of seeking western allies against the Xiongnu invaders.  “Western enemies of Tamerlane, potential allies of China, could only be reached by sea because Tamerlane himself blocked the land routes to the west.” (Dreyer, p. 60) 

[5] Edward L. Dreyer, “The Myth of ‘One China’”, p. 24.

[6] Hsueh Hua-yuan, Tai Pao-tsun and Chow Mei-li, Is Taiwan Chinese? A history of Taiwanese Nationality [台灣不是中國的,台灣國民的歷史], Taiwan Advocates Press, Taipei, 2005, p. 61. 

In a 1994 interview, Taiwan’s sitting president Lee Teng-hui recalled that Li Hung-chang, the Manchu Dynasty’s lead negotiator with the Japanese, “implied he did not want Taiwan as it was land beyond civilization (化外之地)!” J. Bruce Jacobs, “Conceptual Underpinnings for New Policies toward Taiwan and China,” in John J. Tkacik, Jr. ed., Reshaping the Taiwan Strait, The Heritage Foundation, Washington, 2007, p. 170.

[7] Lionel Giles, “Translations from the Chinese World Map of Father Ricci” Geographical Journal 52 (1918), p. 384.  It reads: 大明聲名文物之盛 The Great Ming is renowned for the richness of its civilization.  自十五度之四十二度皆是 It comprises all between the 15th and 42nd parallels. 其餘 四海 朝貢之國甚多The other Tributary Realms of the Four Seas are very numerous.  此總圖略載嶽瀆省道  This General  Map contains a small selection of its mountains and rivers, provinces and circuits.  大略餘詳統志省志不能殫述. For the remainder, which cannot be given here in exhaustive detail, see the Gazetteers of the Empire and of the Provinces.  

[8] General Douglas MacArthur’s farewell address to Congress, April 19, 1951, at (accessed 2/7/14).  

[9] “Text of Gen. M'Arthur's Statement on Formosa” to the National Encampment of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Chicago, The Washington Post, August 29, 1950; p. 6.

[10] One of the most elegant descriptions of General MacArthur’s removal is in William Manchester, American Caesar, Little, Brown, New York, 1978.   On March 20, 1951, General MacArthur had replied to a letter from Congressman Joe Martin, House Minority Leader, endorsing a speech Martin had made February 12 accusing President Truman of preventing “800,000 trained men” on Taiwan from “opening a second front in Asia.”  Martin blisteringly concluded, “if we are not in Korea to win, then this Truman Administration should be indicted for the murder of thousands of American boys.”  MacArthur noted that Martin’s views on the utilization of Nationalist Chinese troops on Taiwan were in conflict neither with “logic” nor with the “tradition” of “meeting force with maximum counter force.”  It was, Truman later recalled, “the real clincher.”  pp. 639.

[11] Source: Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command (CINCPAC), "CINCPAC Command History for 1974," September 25, 1975, Volume I, pp. 163-164.   “(TS-FRD) Certain specific movements of nuclear weapons occurred in 1974. All nuclear weapons from Tainan Air Base, Taiwan, were relocated to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. Permission Action Link (PAL) recode had been completed by 19 July.” See (accessed 2/7/14). The author recalls that U.S. nuclear weapons were also removed from Taiwan’s Ching Chuan Kang air force base in 1975.  

[12] Although the United State recognized the “Republic of China” as the sole legal government of China until January 1, 1979, and supported its claim to a seat on the United Nations Security Council until October 25, 1971, the U.S. never recognized “ROC” sovereignty in the former Japanese colony of Taiwan, nor have the major signatories of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of September 8, 1951, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  The Soviet Union refused to sign the Treaty explaining that “ … this draft grossly violates the indisputable rights of China to the return of integral parts of Chinese territory: Taiwan, the Pescadores, the Paracel and other islands ... The draft contains only a reference to the renunciation by Japan of its rights to these territories but intentionally omits any mention of the further fate of these territories.”  A Department of State legal memorandum from 1971 states: “As Taiwan and the Pescadores are not covered by any existing international disposition, sovereignty over the area is an unsettled question subject to future international resolution.”  These are quoted in Memorandum from the Department of State Legal Advisor [L/EA – Robert I. Starr] to the Director of the Office of Republic of China Affairs [Charles T. Sylvester], dated 

July 13, 1971, Subject: Legal Status of Taiwan.   This memorandum is reprinted in John J. Tkacik, ed. Rethinking One China, The Heritage Foundation, Washington, D.C., 2004, page 181.

[13] Ying-jeou Ma, "Legal Problems of Seabed Boundary Delimitation of the East China Sea,” Occasional Papers/Reprint Series in Contemporary Asian Studies, Number 3 – 1984 (62), University of Maryland School of Law, Baltimore, 1984, p. 42.   This is an edited version of Ma Ying-jeou’s doctoral dissertation at Harvard University School of Law.

[14] Edward Friedman, “Power Transition Theory: A Challenge to the Peaceful Rise of World Power China,” unpublished manuscript, for a chapter in Herbert S. Yee, ed., China's Rise: Threat Or Opportunity?, Routledge, Chapman & Hall, 2011.  I am indebted to Professor Friedman for making a copy of his pre-publication manuscript available to me.

[15] John Mearsheimer and Robert Kaplan.  Among others, Professor John Mearsheimer makes this point with reference to the United States and China.  See John J. Mearsheimer, “Rivalry in the Offing,” China Security, Vol. 4, No. 2 Spring 2008, pp. 9, 11 at (accessed 2/7/14) 

[16] Chen Xiankui, Xin Xiangyang, “中国和平崛起是否可能?” [Is China’s Peaceful Rise Possible, or Not?], Beijing, Xuexi Shibao, [学习时报Study Times], posted September 2, 2004, at (accessed September 30, 2004).  Zheng Bijian, “China’s Peaceful Rise and Opportunities for the Asia-Pacific Region”, transcript of a speech by Chairman Zheng Bijian of the China Reform Forum, presented at a Roundtable Meeting at the Bo’ao Forum for Asia at (accessed April 4, 2004). Huang Renwei, “中国和平崛起的道路选择和战略观念” [The Choice of Route and Strategic Concept of China’s Peaceful Rise], Beijing Renmin Ribao, [人民日报People’s Daily] April 26, 2004, at (accessed 2/7/14).  Professor Friedman’s “Power Transition Theory” also explores at great length the debate in China on the U.S.-China rivalry.

[17] These assertions were made in the Chinese media in 2006, assertions of which the author was initially skeptical.  However, a review of contemporary Taiwan media coverage in Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) transcripts indicates that there was more than a little truth in them.  The article which caught the author’s attention was “Dalu Meiti zha Tai tiaozhan gongshou nanhai chenji, Taiwan fangmian zhunbei zai Taiping Dao jian jichang” (大陸媒體轟台 挑戰共守南海默契, 台灣方面準備在太平島建機場) [PRC Media blasts Taiwan – Challenge to Tacit Understanding re Spratly Islands, Taiwan plans Airstrip on Itu Aba]. Shijie Ribao, [世界日報 World Journal]January 7, 2006, citing a report in Xinhua's International Herald Leader 

[18] “Dalu Meiti” above.  The text reads: “如果再發生戰爭,國軍將助解放軍抗戰”.  It’s difficult to discern just what Taiwan’s leadership thought of the March 14 Chinese battle on Chigua Reef.  In the weeks prior to the clash, Taiwan’s garrison reported some 40 PRC warships had been deployed in the Spratlys (FBIS-CHI-88, March 16, 1988, p. 55), and Taiwan’s defense ministry indicated the garrison was on high alert against a “Chinese Communist” incursion (FBIS-CHI-88-040, March 1, 1988, p. 39). Taipei International Service issued a commentary in English on March 4, 1988 averring “one thing is for sure, though, that Chinese, whatever side of the Chinese civil conflict they may be on, are not going to give up national territory for anything” (FBIS-CHI-88-046, March 9, 1988, p. 81).  On March 25, the defense minister told a Legislative Yuan interpellation that there was no need for Taiwan to aid China in case of an escalation of tensions with Vietnam in the Spratlys (FBIS-CHI-88-059, p. 56).  On April 1, 1988, the PRC-controlled Hong Kong newspaper Xinwan Bao published a commentary urging Taiwan to allow China to take over supplying Taiwan’s garrison on Itu Aba/Taiping. (FBIS-CHI-88-065, p. 51).  

[19] Ibid. The text reads: “台灣國防部官員也曾表示,「不排除與大陸合作開發與管理南沙」”.  Taiwan’s press, however, reflected continued Taiwan anxiety about China’s military buildup on the Paracel Islands (for example, FBIS-CHI-93-151, August 9, 1993).

[20] “Dalu Meiti” above. The text reads: “李登輝上台後,才拋棄在維護南海諸島主權上與大陸協調一致的立場”.

[21]  Wu Mingjie  “Taiping dao zhoubian daojiao dou cao zhanling” (太平島周邊島礁多遭佔領) [Island reefs surrounding Taiping all occupied]; Wu Mingjie, “Guojun yaoxin gongjian  pingxian wo Taipingdao haiyu” (國軍憂心 共艦頻現我太平島海域) [Taiwan Military Alarmed - PRC Ships Encroach on Spratly Island Waters], both in Taipei 中國時報China Times, July 11, 2005.

[22] Peh Shing Huei, “The rise of the sea dragon; China builds up its maritime might,” Straits Times, May 22, 2010.

[23] John J. Tkacik, “Clear signal needed on islands dispute,” Heritage Foundation Webmemo, June 27, 2008, at (accessed 2/7/14). 

[24] Senate Resolution 167--Reaffirming the Strong Support of the United States For the Peaceful Resolution of Territorial, Sovereignty, and Jurisdictional Disputes in the Asia-Pacific Maritime Domains, June 10, 2013, at (accessed 2/7/14) . 

[25] For example, the U.S. government translated the Youth Reference (青年参考) essay cited in endnote 2 on January 13, 2013, as “PRC Article Says PLA May Use Diaoyu Dispute To Break Through 'Island Chain'”,reference CPP20121102787010. 

[26] See particularly, the testimony of James Shinn, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, to the House Armed Services Committee of June 25, 2008, in which Dr. Shinn addresses China’s military and naval buildup.  The Pentagon also published its “Annual Report to Congress on the Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2008” (at (accessed 2/7/14) which underscored the methodical steps of China’s ballistic missile and naval shipbuilding programs specifically targeted on “anti-access/area denial” at pages 22-26.  Anti-Access/Area-Denial (or “A2/AD”) was mentioned in the Pentagon Reports for 2006 and 2007, but was identified as an organizing principle of Chinese strategy in the 2008 report. 

[27] “Adm. Keating (USN) Delivers Remarks at the Heritage Foundation,” Admiral Timothy Keating (USN), Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, CQ Newsmaker Transcripts, Special Events, July 16, 2008.   

[28] Keating mentioned the Chinese admiral’s comment at least once prior to his Heritage Foundation remarks at “PACOM Admiral Thomas Keating's appearance before the Sen. Armed Services Com. Tuesday (March 11, 2008)” at (accessed 2/7/14); and once after at “Foreign Press Center Briefing With Admiral Tim Keating, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command; Subject: Asia-Pacific Military Overview,” U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center, Washington, D.C., December 18, 2008.

[29] For example, on November 14, 2008, the US Department of State instructed the US Embassy in Beijing to demarche the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on five separate incidents of harassment of US naval vessels by Chinese coast guard and PLA navy ships in October and September of that year, and added that there had been numerous similar unsafe and “unprofessional” encounters throughout the “past 18 months.”  See Secretary of State telegram 08 State 120864 of November 14, 2008.  All Department of State telegrams cite in this essay were in the Wikileaks disclosures and are searchable at

[30] On March 9, 2009, the US Embassy reported that the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs seemed “unaware of photos taken from on board the Impeccable clearly showing the presence of a PLA navy vessel.”  See telegram 09 Beijing 0600, of March 9, 2009.  For US press reports of the incident see David Morgan, “U.S. says Chinese vessels harassed Navy ship,” Reuters, March 9, 2009; Pauline Jelinek, “China Harasses U.S. Navy Vessel in International Waters," The Associated Press, March 9, 2009; Anne Gearan, Officials: US ship in China spat was hunting subs, The Associated Press, March 11, 2009; Ann Scott Tyson, U.S. Protests 'Harassment' of Navy Ship by Chinese Vessels, The Washington Post, March 9, 2009 at (accessed 2/7/14) 

[31] The American Embassy in Beijing cited a senior Chinese academic affiliated with the Ministry of State Security, as saying that “such maritime encounters [as the Impeccable incident] were common, but the Pentagon's public response was unexpected.”  Department of State Telegram 09 Beijing 0951 of April 9, 2009. 

[32] Christopher Bodeen, “China acknowledges incident between sub, US ship,” The Associated Press, June 16, 2009; Choe Sang-Hun, “Test Looms as U.S. Tracks North Korean Ship,” The New York Times, June 22, 2009 at (accessed 2/7/14). 

[33] Kelley Currie, “Why is China Picking Fights with Indonesia?”,The Weekly Standard, August 6, 2010, at (accessed 2/7/14).  

[34] Lyle Goldstein, “Strategic Implications of Chinese Fisheries Development,” Jamestown Foundation China Brief Volume 9 Issue 16, August 5, 2009 at[tt_news]=35372&tx_ttnews[backPid]=25&cHash=090511d03c. (accessed 2/7/14) 

[35] On February 9, 1995, China confirmed it had constructed facilities at Mischief Reef, structures which were apparently built the previous summer.  The Foreign Ministry claimed they were “shelters for Chinese fishermen.” “Foreign Ministry Holds Weekly News Conference, Denies Military Base on Spratlys,” Agence France Presse, February 9, 1995.   On February 16, GMA-7 Radio Arts Network Quezon City reported that the structures were attended by “at least five Chinese ships, three of them warships”. (FBIS-EAS-95-032).   On March 16, Philippines Armed Forces Western Command identified two “Yukon [sic] Class warships inside the lagoon at Mischief Reef” guarding “four communications structures” erected on the reef.  Cynthia D. Balana, “Officials View PRC Vessels I Disputed Area,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 16, 1995 (FBIS Daily Report FBIS-EAS-95-0530).   On May 13, 1995, the Philippine Navy ship BRP Benguet ferried a party of journalists to Mischief Reef to observe the structures – described as “at least 14 structures on four platforms” – but was blocked by one Chinese Fisheries Administration vessel and several smaller fastboats.  The BRP Benguet left the scene as two Chinese “frigates,” identified by the Benguet’s helicopter, “raced” toward them. (“Philippines', PRC Ships Face `Standoff' in Spratlys; ‘Standoff’ Lasts 70 Minutes,” Kyodo News Agency, May 16, 1995 (FBIS Daily Report FBIS-CHI-95-095).  By 1997, the Mischief Reef structures had been significantly augmented, and “the Chinese Navy has built a four-story garrison” on Kota and Panata reefs, “equipped with a helipad and advanced communication equipment.”  (“PHILIPPINES: Further on Chinese Ships in Spratlys,” FBIS Daily Report BIS-EAS-97-086 citing ‘Manila: The Philippine Star (Internet version), May 3, 1997.  Google Earth imagery dated March 11, 2005, shows two platforms roughly 45x30 meters adjacent to a dock area anchored by five concrete caissons at 9.52.51N, 115.31.16E. 

[36] David Jude “DJ” Santa Ana, “China builds more Spratly outposts,” The Philippine Star, May 24, 2011 at (accessed 2/7/14) ; “China, Philippine Defense Chiefs Discuss Spratlys,” The Associated Press, May 23, 2011.

[37] John Pomfret, “U.S. Takes a Tougher Tone with China,” The Washington Post, July 30, 2010, p. A01.

[38] A review of U.S. diplomatic cables prior to February 2010 from the Wikileaks cache shows no mention by Chinese interlocutors of the term “core interest” in any context other than Taiwan.  See

[39] Chinese State Councilor for foreign affairs Dai Bingguo told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that China saw the South China Sea as a “core interest” at the May 25, 2010, “US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.” John Pomfret, “Beijing claims ‘indisputable sovereignty’ over South China Sea,” The Washington Post, July 31, 2010, p. A-07.  Secretary Clinton later confirmed Dai’s stance; see “Interview with Greg Sheridan of The Australian, Melbourne, Australia, November 8, 2010:  “And when China first told us at a meeting of the Strategic and Economic Dialogue that they viewed the South China Sea as a core interest, I immediately responded and said we don’t agree with that. So they were on notice that if they were . . .” to which Mr. Sheridan interjected, “Was that Dai Bingguo that said that to you?”  Secretary Clinton confirmed, “Yes, yeah. So if they were in the process of extending their efforts to claim and control to the detriment of international law, freedom of navigation, maritime security, the claims by their neighbors, that was a concerning matter.” Transcript at  (accessed 2/7/14).

[40] See commentary in English “Modernizing Navy for Self-Defense,” Xinhua, July 13, 2010. (accessed 2/7/14).    Chinese use the term “core interest” (核心利益) as a diplomatic euphemism for an interest over which China will go to war.  In the November 17, 2009, U.S.-China “Joint Statement” issued by Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao, China insisted on including the statement that “The two sides agreed that respecting each other’s core interests is extremely important to ensure steady progress in U.S.-China relations.” By early 2010, The New York Times reported that Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo had repeatedly insisted to Secretary Clinton that the South China Sea was China’s “core interest.” See Edward Wong, “China Hedges over Whether South China Sea Is a ‘Core Interest’ Worth War,” The New York Times, March 30, 2011. (accessed 2/7/14).

[41] For the full text, see U.S. Department of Defense press release “Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates to the International Institute For Strategic Studies (Shangri-La--Asia Security), Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, June 05, 2010,” at (accessed 2/7/14).

[42] Jay Solomon, “U.S. Takes On Maritime Spats, Clinton Plan Would Set Up Legal Process for Asian Nations to Resolve Claims in the South China Sea,” The Wall Street Journal, July 24, 2010, at (accessed 2/7/14).

[43] Pomfret, “Tougher Tone”.

[44] Hu Yongqi et al, “Upgrade Set to Boost Island Chains, China Daily, July 2, 2012, at (accessed 2/7/14).  Alexa Olesen, “China builds newest city on disputed island,” The Associated Press, July 29, 2012, at (accessed 2/7/14).

[45] “South China Sea fishing rules are 'normal practice',” China Daily, January 10, 2014, at (accessed 2/7/14).


[46] For a survey of China’s confrontation with Japan in the Senkakus see John J. Tkacik, “Removing the Taiwan Stone from Asia’s Great “Gō” Game: Thoughts on Taiwan’s geographic and demographic role in Asia-Pacific security,” in Peter C. Y. Chow, ed. National Identity and Economic Interest, Taiwan’s Competing Options and Their Implications for Regional Security, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2012, pp. 266-69.

[47] “H-6G conducts mining exercise over Western Pacific: report,” China Times internet edition in English, October 16, 2013, accessed October 16, 2013.  That report said “Two F-15J from the 83rd Air Wing of Japan Air Defense Force were dispatched to intercept the Chinese bombers on Sept. 8, however it remained unknown why the H-6G strategic bombers flew so close to the Japanese territorial waters. Nine days later, a group of H-6G bombers successfully conducted mining exercise over the unknown waters located in the Western Pacific. After dropping 11 mines in the target areas, all H-6G returned to base in eastern China, the paper said.”  See also  “Japan scrambles fighter planes as 4 Chinese planes fly near Okinawa,” Kyodo News International, October 25, 2013, at (accessed 2/7/14);  “NHK - Japan to strengthen patrols against Chinese planes,” NHK, October 29, 2013, at  (accessed 2/7/14). 

[48] “Angry Skies: Japanese Jets Scramble as Tensions with China Escalate,” Time magazine online, September 18, 2013, at  (accessed 2/7/14). “Crossing the first island chain, Chinese bombers' maximum radius of operation tested,” People's Daily Online, September 22, 2013.

[49] Kiyoshi Takenaka, “Japan seeks biggest defense budget rise in 22 years,” Reuters, August 30, 2013, at  (accessed 2/7/14); “Defense minister says Japan needs military boost to counter China, North Korea concerns,” The Associated Press, September 3, 2013.

[50] Geoff Dyer, “US strategic battle guidelines under attack,” Financial Times, May 31, 2012 at  (accessed 2/7/14); Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “ Air-Sea Battle Is More About Bin Laden Than Beijing: Former CSAF Schwartz,” Breaking Defense, July 16, 2013, at  (accessed 2/7/14). 

[51] Jan van Tol, et al., AirSea Battle; A Point-of-Departure Operational Concept, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Washington, D.C., May 2010.  p. 4; at  (accessed 2/7/14). 

[52] Hillary Rodham Clinton, “America's Pacific Century,” Foreign Policy, October 11, 2011  (accessed 2/7/14).

[53] Office of the White House Press Secretary, “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, Deputy National Security Advisor For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, and NSC Senior Director For Asia Danny Russel at Parliament House, Canberra, Australia, November 16, 2011, at  (accessed 2/7/14).

[54] For a survey of the “pivot” and Taiwan’s general absence see Robert G. Sutter, et al, Balancing Acts: The U.S. Rebalance and Asia-Pacific Stability, The Elliott School of International Relations, George Washington University, August 2013, at  (accessed 2/7/14). The authors concede that “Taiwan has not strongly associated with the rebalance” at page 21.

[55] United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Review of Maritime Transport 2012, [RMT], July 2012, p. 41, at  (accessed 2/7/14)  

[56] Ibid, p. 43.

[57] The Energy Information Administration cites several sources at (September 3, 2013).

[58] Taiwan Ministry of National Defense, briefing for members of the Trilateral Dialogue Conference, PowerPoint presentation, August 26, 2002, p. 7.

[59] UK Maritime and Coast Guard Agency, April 17, 2009. (accessed September 22, 2013). Figures for 2006; Gibraltar Port Authority.  (accessed 2/7/14). U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Database, January 2008.; Egyptian Maritime Data Bank for 2008.

[60] Ji Guoxing, “Asian Pacific SLOC Security: The China Factor,” Royal Australian Navy Sea Power Centre, Working Paper No. 10, April 2002.

[61] “Evergreen Marine's Chairman Sees Container Market Continuing to Flourish,” SeaportsPress Review, November 2, 2007, at (accessed September 22, 2013). 

[62] “The JOC Top 50 World Container Ports, Journal of Commerce, Global port throughput, 2011 vs 2010, in millions of TEUs”, at  (September 22, 2013); port statistics are a   

[63] See U.S. Department of State telegram, 09State036339 of April 13, 2009, “Subject: U.S. response to April 12 Chinese demarche on Langseth operations near Pratas Island.”  See also AmEmbassy Beijing telegram 09 Beijing 0822 of March 27, 2009.   At the time, misleading press reports from Taiwan indicated that the Langseth “continued its mission” while the PRC coast guard merely watched from a distance.  

[64] AIT Taipei telegram 05 Taipei 02433 of June 3, 2005, “Subject: Coast Guard Asks For USG Intervention Over South China Sea Dispute”; AIT Taipei telegram 05 Taipei 02655 of June 16, 2005, “Subject: Pratas Island: Taiwan's Strategic Weakest Link?”  See Tkacik, “Removing the Taiwan Stone,” for a description of the environmental destruction of Pratas Reef by Chinese fishing.

[65] Martin Andrew, “The PLAN and the South China Sea – Some Observations,” unpublished briefing dated November 26, 2013.

[66] Miles Maochun Yu, “Inside China: China’s ‘second navy’,” The Washington Times, March 1, 2013, p. A-10 at  (accessed 2/7/14).

[67] Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, “New Fleet on the Block: China’s Coast Guard Comes Together,” The Wall Street Journal China RealTime blog, March 11, 2013, at  (accessed 2/7/14)/ 

[68] Transcript: remarks by Capt. James Fanell, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence and Information Operations, U.S. Pacific Fleet, January 31, 2013, U.S. Naval Institute at  (accessed 2/7/14). 

[69] Yoko Masuda, “The Race to Beef Up Japan’s Coast Guard,” The Wall Street Journal Japan RealTime blog, October 27, 2012, at  (accessed 2/7/14). “Japan Coast Guard seeks budget to enhance Senkakus security,” Kyodo News International, August 27, 2013, at (accessed August 28, 2013).  

[70] Kazuo Ikejiri, “Japan to provide Philippines with 10 cutters to beef up maritime patrols,” Asahi Shimbun [in English], July 27, 2013,  at  (accessed 2/7/14). 

[71] Linda Johnson, “U.S. Coast Guard Transfers High Endurance Cutters Hamilton and Chase to the Philippines and Nigeria,” U.S. Coast Guard press release, May 2011, at  (accessed 2/7/14).

Hrvoje Hranjsky, “Philippines gets 2nd decommissioned US Coast Guard cutter to counter China’s island claims,” The Associated Press, August 6, 2013, at  (accessed 2/7/14). 

[72] “Death of a fisherman could be a crucial turning point in Asia: Editorial,” China Times internet edition in English, Taipei, May 19, 2013, at  (accessed 2/7/14). Shih Hsiu-chuan, “Taipei, Manila arrive at fishing dispute consensus, Taipei Times, June 16, 2013, p. 1 at  (accessed 2/7/14).  

[73] Defense and Security Report, Second Quarter 2013, US-Taiwan Business Council, Arlington, July 1, 2013, p. 53.

[74] Peter Enav, "Taiwan demilitarizes picturesque offshore islet," Associated Press, July 24, 2008, at (accessed 2/7/14); also author's notes from visit to Pratas, September 2006.  

[75] “拿起望遠鏡看反恐制伏演練但要先改變 傳統的「海洋需靠海軍」的思維,也就是維護海上的安全,不能只靠海軍,而必須靠海巡署這樣的警力.”   Chen Jinsheng 陳金聲, "馬總統:要設海洋部" [President Ma: We will Establish an Oceans Ministry], Lianhe Bao [聯合晚報 -- United Daily News]internet edition, June 7, 2009, at (accessed June 12, 2009. 

[76] At least as of 2007; see "Taiwan ships form world’s 11th largest merchant fleet in 2006: UNCTAD," Central News Agency, Taipei, December 16, 2007.

[77] Different nations organize their maritime enforcement in different ways, with customs often separate from maritime navigation missions.  Rather than compare apples and oranges, one may simply note that Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration employed over 15,000 officers, ranks and civilian officials including compulsory national service conscripts in 2003.  Japan's coast guard, which is organized somewhat differently, claims about 12,000 employees.  Indonesia's coast guard is part of its navy.  And coast guard missions in some East Asian nations are simply under-resourced. According to the November 27, 2008, Manila Times, “The current force and capabilities of the 5,000-strong Philippine Coast Guard is grossly inadequate, considering we have one of the most world’s most extensive coastlines spread over 7,107 islands” (at accessed September 20, 2013). 

[78] While the Taiwan Coast Guard Administration shows the Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands on maps of its area of operations, it does not list the Senkakus among the islands within its “mission areas.”  Schematic Maps are available at the Taiwan Coast Guard Administration website at  (“areas of mission” at site tab). 

[79] Xinhua published an intriguing report of the discovery of a large deposit of ferro-manganese nodules on the South China Sea seabed at the “Jiaolong Seamount” (蛟龍海山) named for a scientific exploration vessel, but gave no details nor the location of the seamount.  A separate report in Chinese indicated that the Jiaolong submersible had discovered several new species of invertebrate sealife on the seamount at a depth of 3800 meters.  See Zhang Xudong, ““蛟龙”号在南海“蛟龙海山”采集到巨大海参” [“Jiaolong” in the South Sea collects giant seaslug on ‘Jiaolong Seamount’], Xinhua, July 7, 2013 at (accessed September 21,2013); “Jiaolong discovers iron-manganese deposits,” July 4, 2013, at  (accessed 2/7/14).  

[80] Ted Chen, “Assessment hurdle passed for Taiping Island Airport upgrade,” The China Post, September 20, 2013, at  (accessed 2/7/14); J. Michael Cole, “Taiwan’s Power Grab in the South China Sea,” The Diplomat, September 4, 2013, at (accessed 2/7/14);  “Itu Aba Island wharf to bolster nation’s defense,” Taipei Times, August 31, 2013, p. 4 at  (accessed 2/7/14); “Defense Ministry to assess Taiping frigate terminal,” Taipei Times, April 24, 2013. Shih Hsiu-chuan, Hsu Shao-hsuan and Jimmy Chuang, “President visits disputed islands,” Taipei Times, February 3, 2008, p. 1, at  (accessed 2/7/14). 

[81] The Taichao and Nanridao Basin.  See Jerome Cohen and Chen Yu-jie, “If all goes well Direct flights are just the start. Next comes cross-strait oil co-operation,” South China Morning Post, July 10, 2008.

[82]  United States Code Title 22 Chapter 48 Sections 3301 - 3316.  Hereafter “TRA”

[83] TRA, s. 3301(b)(6).

[84] TRA, s. 3302(a).

[85] For additional background see John J. Tkacik, Jr. “White House bickering and Taiwan’s F-16s,” The Washington Times, Wednesday, September 21, 2011, page B-03, at

[86]  For examples of these exchanges see state department telegrams 09 AIT TAIPEI 1075 of September 9, 2009, “Subject: National Security Advisor: F-16s a Test of U.S. Commitment”; 09 AIT TAIPEI 1399 of November 25, 2009, “Subject: AIT Chairman Burghardt's November 24 Meetings With President Ma And National Security Advisor Su Chi”; and 10 AIT TAIPEI 0124 of February 2, 2010, “Subject: President Ma Welcomes Arms Sale, But Others Question Cost” at

[87] Paul Mozur, “U.S. mulls Selling Taiwan F-16s in Letter,” The Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2012.  The US-Taiwan Business Council issued a press release on April 27, 2012 quoting part of the letter to Cornyn:  “We are mindful of and share your concerns about Taiwan's growing shortfall in fighter aircraft - as the F-5s are retired from service and notwithstanding the upgrade of the F-16A/Bs. We recognize that China has 2,300 operational combat aircraft, while our democratic partner Taiwan has only 490. We are committed to assisting Taiwan in addressing the disparity in numbers of aircraft through our work with Taiwan's defense ministry on its development of a comprehensive defense strategy vis-a-vis China.” 

[88] The Pentagon's 2009 public assessment (likely somewhat rosier than its real assessment) of the balance across the Taiwan Strait reads, inter alia:  “In the 2002 report, the Department of Defense assessed that Taiwan 'has enjoyed dominance of the airspace over the Taiwan Strait for many years.' This conclusion no longer holds true. With this reversal, China has been able to develop a range of limited military options to attempt to coerce Taipei.”  See Annual Report to Congress, the Military Power of the People's Republic of China, 2009, Office of the Secretary of Defense, March 26, 2009, p. VIII at   

The current and all previous reports are available at   

[89] On May 12, 2005, Chinese Communist Party leader Hu Jintao and senior Taiwan opposition party leader, James Soong, (very nearly elected Taiwan’s president in 2000 and its vice-president in 2004), issued a “joint news communiqué” in Beijing declaring that “Military conflicts shall be effectively avoided so long as there is no possibility that Taiwan moves toward ‘Taiwan independence’.” “胡錦濤與宋楚瑜會談達成六項共識” [Hu Jintao and Song Chuyu reach a six-item consensus], Renmin Wang [People’s Daily Net], Beijing, May, 12, 2005.  See also “No ‘Taiwan independence’, no military conflicts: communiqué”, Xinhua news agency, Beijing, May 12, 2005, at  (accessed 2/7/14). See also “宋楚瑜:兩岸不必提軍事互信機制在兩岸菁英論壇倡議「建立經濟互信機制」 賈慶林提四點合作建議”, [James Soong: Two sides do not need military mutual confidence mechanism, Calls for ‘establishment of economic mutual confidence mechanism,’ Jia Qinglin proposes four point cooperation agreement], New York Shijie Ribao (in Chinese), September 16, 2005; see also “台商促宋贊成軍購換直航當著國台辦官員的面 提問尖銳”, [Taiwan Businessmen Urge James Soong to trade Arms Budget for Direct Links, Slap in Face to Taiwan Affairs Officials, Questions Sharp], New York Shijie Ribao (In Chinese), September 16, 2005. P.2.  

[90] Ko Shu-ling, "Ma would consider peace talks in 2012," Taipei Times, May 12, 2009, Page 1 (accessed 2/7/14).  See also Tang Xiaomin, "馬:任內絕不協商統一" [Ma: Absolutely no Unification Consultations in his Term], Shijie Ribao, May 11, 2009, where Ma confirms that during his tenure he "doesn't rule out political consultations, that is, a peace agreement" which would last 50 or so years.

[91] China’s doctrinal stance since 1981 has been that “talks be held on an equal footing between the ruling parties on each side of the straits, namely, the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang.”  See “'White Paper' on Taiwan, Reunification Issued,” Xinhua News Agency, Beijing, August 31, 1993, translated from the Chinese by FBIS at FBIS-CHI-93-168, and “Text: The Principle of One China and the Taiwan Question,” Xinhua News Agency, February 21, 2000.

Cui Xiaohuo, "Ma's move paves way to meet Hu," China Daily, June 11, 2009,  (accessed 2/7/14); Mo Yan-chih, "Pressure builds for Ma-Hu meet," Taipei Times, June 12, 2009, p. 1 at  (accessed 2/7/14). 

[92] In June 2009, Ma Ying-jeou’s vice president Vincent Siew, told the U.S. representative in Taipei that after Ma’s presumed re-election in January 2012, “These ‘highly political’ issues [of political negotiations] will be controversial in Taiwan, said Siew, but should be able to build on four years of cooperative engagement on economic issues.” [AIT Taipei telegram 09 Taipei 0795 of June 30, 2009] See also “Taiwan’s Ma Ying-jeou says time not ripe for Beijing political talks,”  - The South China Morning Post, April 21, 2013.   See also Chou Peifen, Wang Zheng Ning and Chan Hou Chi, “兩岸政治對話 馬:何必急” [Cross-strait political Dialogue  Ma: why the urgency], Taipei Zhongguo Shibao, April 21, 2013 at  (accessed 2/7/14). 

[93] Vincent Y. Chao et al, “Chinese security chief’s visit kept secret,” Taipei Times, September 29, 2010, p. 1 at  (accessed 2/7/14);  “China vice security minister visited Taiwan, report says,” Taipei Times, September 28, 2010, p. 3; Private e-mail dated September 15, 2010.

[94] Martin Williams, “Taiwan activists return home after coast guards face off near Senkaku,” Kyodo News Agency, September 14, 2010. 

[95] “Taiwan, Japan in high-seas standoff, Scores of fishing vessels were escorted by 10 coast guard ships as they confronted 21 Japanese coast guard ships, with five Chinese patrol ships nearby,” Taipei Times, September 26, 2012, p. 01 at  (accessed 2/7/14). 

[96] Chen Mei-chin, “The way forward in the islands altercation,” Taipei Times, October 2, 2012, p. 8, at  (accessed 2/7/14); U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, August 28, 2012, at  (accessed 2/7/14).

[97] Among the reports were Nadia Tsao and Jake Chung, “Senior US officials skip defense meet Sending a Message?,” Taipei Times, October 2, 2012, p. 3; Mo Yan-chih, “Diaoyutais spat hasn’t hurt US ties: Ma,” Taipei Times, October 3, 2012, p. 3  (accessed 2/7/14).

[98] For a deeper exploration of the Taiwan-Japan maritime demarcation issue see Chen Hurng-yu, “Water claims shouldn't ignore UN,” Taipei Times, December 29, 2006, p. 8, at  (accessed 2/7/14). 

[99] Madoka Fukuda, “The Japan-Taiwan Fisheries Agreement Will Not 'Contain China',” Association of Japanese Institutes of Strategic Studies, AJISS-Commentary No.179 at  (accessed 2/7/14).  The two sides struck an agreement on long-line fishing on January 26, 2014, as this article was being edited. “Taiwan and Japan strike compromise in fisheries talks,” Taipei Times, January 26, 2014, p. 3 at  (accessed 2/7/14).

[100] Shih Hsiu-chuan, “No basis for cross-strait action on Diaoyutais: MOFA,” Taipei Times, February 20, 2013, page 1, at  (accessed 2/7/14).

[101] Shih Hsiu-chuan, “Taiwan, Japan ink fisheries agreement,” Taipei Times, April 11, 2013, page 1, at  (accessed 2/7/14).

[102] “Taiwan rejects Japan's plan to change air defense identity zone,” Kyodo News Agency, May 29, 2010. 


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