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Negotiations With a Giant: Taiwan's 'Win-Win' Strategy

Taiwan Government Information Minister Philip Yang refrains from endorsing China's claims to the South China Sea in New York on July 12, 2011. (2 min., 57 sec.)

Taiwan Government Information Minister Philip Yang refrains from endorsing China's claims to the South China Sea in New York on July 12, 2011. (2 min., 57 sec.)

NEW YORK, July 12, 2011 — Philip Y. M. Yang, Taiwan's Minister of the Government Information Office, spoke on creating "peace and posperity" while "enhancing Taiwan's self-defense" in cross-strait relations with mainland China at an Asia Society luncheon Tuesday.

Yang addressed these issues in conversation with Jerome Cohen, professor of law at the New York University School of Law, at a program entitled "Taiwan's Win-Win Strategy for Cross-Strait Relations."

Cross-strait relations are a continuing success story, according to Yang, with Taiwan and mainland China boosting Taiwan's trade and tourism, cooperating in the apprehension of Taiwanese criminals escaping to mainland China, participating in cross-strait college education education programs that promote understanding, and all but completely forgetting the 2008 cross-strait crisis.

But Yang warned that in order to continue the "win-win" strategy of "mutual non-recognition" and "mutual non-denial" — meaning Taiwan and the mainland do not recognize one another as separate states or sovereignties but also do not deny one another's right to govern their own lands — Taiwan must become a larger presence in the international space by bolstering its military strength through the purchase of U.S. arms.

"For the cross-strait relations to continue to advance, the United States must help Taiwan to level the playing field," said Yang. "Negotiations with a giant like mainland China is not without risk. The right leverage must be in place, otherwise Taiwan cannot credibly maintain an equal footing at the negotiation table."

China's ongoing military modernization — Yang cited China's test flight of the J-20 stealth fighter during Defense Secretary Robert Gates' visit as an example — also presents itself as a good reason for Taiwan to pursue aquiring "F-16C/D jet fighters and diesel-electric submarines from the United States."

Despite what might seem to some as Taiwan making preparations for war, Yang ensures that the purchase of U.S. weapons is not a cross-strait "arms race" or "provocation," but is instead "solely meant" for self-defense capabilities and to prevent military conflict.

When asked about tensions in the South China Sea, Yang said that while Taiwan does support Beijing's legal claim to the region, it has "no intention to cooperate or talk with the Beijing government whatsoever," as Taiwan does not yet want to turn its economic alliance with the mainland into a political one. Yang's answers upheld his position on cross-strait relations, which is that notions of military power should be held separate from crisis resolution.

"Every party in this issue should refrain from using any military force to resolve their problems — peaceable means should be conducted," said Yang. "We encourage every country to deal with issues through peaceful negotiations and dialogue."

Reported by Bryan Le