Taiwan Awkward as U.S. Takes Stance on South China Sea
The United States Seventh Fleet issued a press release equivalent to denying the sovereignty claims of Taiwan, the Republic of China, in the South China Sea. This is at odds with the position taken by President Tsai Ing-wen, who recently commended the U.S. Armed Forces for carrying out its freedom of navigation operation.
Committed to Free Navigation, U.S. Seventh Fleet Challenges Taiwan’s Sovereignty Claims in South China Sea
China Times, February 20, 2021
In her national security remarks on February 10, the eve before Chinese New Year, President Tsai Ing-wen affirmed the freedom of navigation operation conducted by the United States Navy in the South China Sea. But it was quite embarrassing that on February 17, the U.S. Seventh Fleet issued a press release emphasizing that the freedom of navigation operation challenged the internationally unlawful restrictions imposed by China, Vietnam, and Taiwan on innocent passage, a position which is tantamount to denying sovereignty claims of the Republic of China in the South China Sea. The press release by the Seventh Fleet is clearly at odds with the position of President Tsai, and the ministries of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, and National Defense were reluctant to comment on this development.
On February 9, the U.S. Navy announced that the aircraft carriers USS Theodore Roosevelt and USS Nimitz and their strike groups would conduct “duel carrier” exercises in the South China Sea. On the same day, President Tsai convened a high-level meeting on national security, indicating that the freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea demonstrated a clear U.S. approach to challenges to the security status quo in the Indo-Pacific region. Deputy Secretary-General Huang Kwei-bo of the Kuomintang (KMT) later criticized President Tsai's remarks as inappropriate for possibly undermining R.O.C. statehood and national interests in the South China Sea.
According to a commentator, the Tsai administration should not ignore the infringements by the U.S. military free navigation operation on R.O.C. sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. Otherwise, Taiwan risks undermining its own national dignity and character.
Tsai Administration Embarrassed by U.S. Military Action in South China Sea
By Li Cheng-hsiu
China Times, February 25
When global think tanks predict the crisis that may most likely trigger war between the United States and China, the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea are the most frequently mentioned hotspots recently. The Taiwan Strait has not been peaceful due to continuous disturbance of China’s army aircrafts. Lately, the South China Sea has not been quiet either.
During the high-level National Security Council meeting on February 9, President Tsai Ing-wen affirmed the U.S. navy for conducting a freedom-of-navigation operation in the South China Sea. However, the statement from the U.S. Seventh Fleet seemed to shame President Tsai’s support. The Seventh Fleet’s press release emphasized that the “freedom-of-navigation operation was to challenge the unlawful restrictions on innocent passage imposed by China, Vietnam, and Taiwan.” This statement is tantamount to denying the claims and sovereignty of the Republic of China in the South China Sea. Since the South China Sea issue is a sensitive and touchy subject for both sides of the Taiwan Strait as well as for the interactions between the United States and Taiwan, the embarrassed Tsai administration can only choose to remain silent lest of bad results either way.
According to an expert on cross-strait issues, the year 2024 is a key point in determining war and peace in the Taiwan Strait. If both sides can create a good atmosphere, then President Tsai Ing-wen will still have the opportunity to create new conditions for Taiwan's long-term stability. (Photo from: China Times)
Improving Cross-Strait Relations, Starting from Kind Words
By Chao Chun-Shan
United Daily News, February 18, 2021
Leaders on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have taken the opportunity of the Chinese New Year to express their wishes to each other. Chinese President Xi Jinping's greeting is to "Taiwan compatriots," while President Tsai Ing-wen's greeting is to "people on the other side." With different wording, it tells the difference in relationship closeness.
The Chinese have always liked to "chew words", and "listen to what they say" first, then "watch what they do." Just imagine how misinterpretation of the term "1992 Consensus" (i.e. one China, with respective interpretations) alone could have frozen cross-strait relations for four years. Chinese culture is broad and profound. Many foreign friends have asked me about the proper terms such as "One China, with the same interpretation", "One China, with separate interpretations", and "One China, without interpretation", and so on. No matter how hard I explained to them, they just replied with puzzled eyes.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping spoke by phone on the eve before Chinese New Year. The phone call is significant to the future development of U.S.-China-Taiwan relations. (Photo from: United Daily News)
February 10: The administration of President Joe Biden in the United States has called for cross-strait dialogue. In public remarks following a high-level national security meeting before Chinese New Year, President Tsai Ing-wen stressed that the key to cross-strait peace lies in China's hands. She wished people on the opposite side of the strait health and safety in the year ahead and expressed hopes to promote cross-strait peace and stability.
February 11: On the eve before Chinese New Year, U.S. President Joe Biden spoke with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in a phone call. Biden expressed deep concerns about China's crackdowns in Hong Kong and Xinjiang as well as arbitrary actions in the region, including towards Taiwan and stressed that maintaining the freedom and openness of the Indo-Pacific region is a top priority for the United States. Xi urged the United States should act cautiously on these issues and claimed that U.S.-China confrontation would be a "disaster."
The Office of the President thanked Biden for his concern for security in the Taiwan Strait and human rights issues and reiterated that Taiwan will continue to work closely with the United States to contribute jointly to the stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.
February 17: In order to avoid confusion with mainland Chinese coast guard vessels, the Coast Guard Administration, Ocean Affairs Council, ordered changes to the side text coating of Taiwanese sea patrol vessels. In addition to the existing "R.O.C. Coast Guard" text, "Taiwan" was added to the New Taipei and Penghu vessels and will be subsequently be painted to the next 225 vessels. According to the Office of the President, when dealing with "gray area conflicts," adding "Taiwan" to the painted coating will allow naval patrol vessels to be more clearly identified and enforce the law more safely.
February 17: The Taoyuan General Hospital, Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), saw an outbreak of cluster coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission starting January 12. Since then, a total of 21 people has tested positive, and the hospital has suspended business for more than a month. The Taoyuan General Hospital is to resume operations February 19. Special wards will be reduced in scale, and isolation wards will not be open for the time being. Operation will be further adjusted based on smooth administration and future circumstances.
February 19: With the Biden administration in office, U.S.-China relations has eased. The Office of the President adjusted national security personnel, hoping to promote reforms in national defense and the appropriate and stable handling of cross-strait relations. Chiu Tai-san will take office as minister of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC), while current MAC Minister Chen Ming-tong will assume the position of director-general of the National Security Bureau (NSB). Current NSB Director-General Chiu Kuo-cheng will head the Ministry of National Defense (MND), while current MND Minister Yen Teh-fa will serve as consultant for the National Security Council. They will assume their new positions effective February 23, before a new session opens at the Legislative Yuan on February 26.
February 20: As a result of strong export growth, the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, Executive Yuan, issued its latest economic forecast, raising its estimates for 2021 economic growth to 4.64 percent. This is not only 0.81 percentage points higher than the estimate of 3.83 percent in November but also the highest rate of economic growth since 2015.
February 20: The first batch of 200,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines purchased through COVAX will arrive in Taiwan this week. The Food and Drug Administration, MOHW, approved emergency permits to three companies from Germany, South Korea, and Italy so that the inoculation of AstraZeneca vaccines can begin within seven days of their arrival in Taiwan. Medical personnel may receive priority vaccinations as soon as March.
On February 15, the World Health Organization approved an emergency use permit for the coronavirus vaccine jointly developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. COVAX, the global access mechanism for coronavirus vaccines, subsequently launched the first wave of vaccine distribution.