On Thursday last week, a military-chartered supply flight operated by Uni Air from Kaohsiung to the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) in the South China Sea was forced to turn back on its way to the disputed islands.
The incident has been interpreted as Hong Kong interrupting regular flight plans by not issuing a notice in accordance with international protocols.
In addition, as there were no military exercises in that airspace at the time, it has also been interpreted as a threat issued by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Based on the CCP issuing similar threats in a war of attrition against Taiwan, Taipei could consider handing the defense of the Pratas Islands to the US, under a management or leasing arrangement, while retaining non-military control, such as civil government and tourism management.
It is public knowledge that there would be no way to defend the isolated Pratas Islands and Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) if the CCP were to launch a military attack on Taiwan.
By simply surrounding the islands with armed private boats, they could sever supply lines, and without food supplies, the troops stationed on the islands would be forced to surrender.
The only reason that Taiwan can maintain communications with the islands is the freedom of navigation.
The line of communication between Taiwan proper and Itu Aba Island remains open because it does not pass through China’s Flight Information Region, which includes Hong Kong.
However, the line of communication to the Pratas Islands is nearing crisis-levels following the blocking of the Uni Air flight.
If the same thing were to happen again, the government should consider asking the US if it would be willing to lease the island out of concern for air communications and the supply lines of the troops stationed there.
The US has no territorial ambitions, and it is opposed to Chinese expansionism, which is in contravention of international law.
Taiwan is concerned that China would place the Pratas Islands under a blockade and the US is determined to prevent China from occupying the islands.
Given these circumstances, if the ideological and systemic US-China confrontation continues, leasing the islands would allow the US to monitor the activities of Chinese nuclear submarines in the South China Sea.
This is a solution that the US and Taiwan should discuss.
Liu Shih-ming is an adjunct associate professor in the Graduate School of Taiwanese Culture at the National Taipei University of Education.
Translated by Perry Svensson
Last week, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, said in a statement that they have decided to end their marriage. The news immediately caused a global sensation. When my daughter heard that I was going to write a newspaper op-ed to comment on the matter, she made sure to remind me not to focus on the divorce agreement or the handling of the world’s richest couple’s wealth. Instead of talking about how much money Melinda Gates would get from the divorce, my daughter wanted me to focus on the many sacrifices she has made, and on her many
Taiwan has finally become an ongoing public issue in Canada, due in part to its success in keeping out COVID-19, and the Chinese Communist Party’s successful efforts to offend just about everyone in Canada. Following the lead of right-wing US politicians, Canadian conservative pundits and Canadian Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs Michael Chong (莊文浩) of the Conservative Party, politicians are urging Canada to “recognize Taiwan.” There is a small problem here for Canada, which has a different history of relations with Taiwan than the US. For Canada to “recognize” Taiwan as things stand would be to re-recognize the Republic of China
Given China’s regional might, it is little surprise that the nation casts a long shadow across Asia — including in its media coverage. However, we are now seeing a disturbing trend of Western media casting a favorable light on China, right as it stands accused of suppressing democracy in Hong Kong, interning Uighurs and obscuring investigations into the origins of COVID-19. At the same time, important coverage of Asian democracies, such as Taiwan’s 20-place leap in the Democracy Index last year — in the midst of a pandemic that brought major constrictions of democratic rights in many places — gets
As Taiwan’s August referendum on completing its Fourth Nuclear Power Plant approaches, one question that has not yet been fully considered is to what extent this and Taiwan’s other three plants are military liabilities — radioactive targets that China aims to attack. At best, a threatened strike or an intentional near-miss against one plant would likely force the government to shut the other nuclear plants down as a precaution. At worst, a strike could produce Chernobyl-like contamination, forcing the evacuation of millions. Some partial, temporary defenses are possible and should be pursued, but ultimately, the smart money is on substituting