24 June 2015
Since the U.S. announced its rebalance to Asia in 2011, Taiwan has received relatively little attention compared to other countries in the region. Yet some recent symbolic events suggest that this might be changing.
In contrast to the improving defense diplomacy activities between the U.S. military and its regional counterparts under the rebalance, Taipei has been clearly excluded by its international isolation. That may now be changing. In late May, for instance, a brigade commander of the Republic of China (ROC, the official title of the government in Taiwan) Marine Corps led a delegation to attend a U.S. Marine Corps conference on maritime and amphibious operations in Hawaii. At almost the same time, General Yen De-fa, Chief of General Staff of the ROC Armed Forces, and Admiral Lee His-ming, Taiwan’s Navy commander, attended the inauguration ceremony for new commanders of the U.S. Pacific Command and the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. In June, the ROC Army’s 601st Aviation and Special Operation Brigade, based in Taoyuan, and the Hawaii-based U.S. Army 25th Combat Aviation Brigade established a sister-unit relationship. The ROC will send a mobile infantry platoon to receive joint training with a U.S. brigade in Hawaii.
Open interactions like this have been quite rare since 1979, when Taipei and Washington severed official ties. In fact, bilateral military ties have recovered to some extent in the post-Cold War era, especially since the missile crisis of 1996. Taiwan sends military personnel to receive training, usually related to arms deals, and their American counterparts will attend some activities such as the annual Han Kuang exercises. Still, public activities have remained infrequent. These events could demonstrate that the U.S. may now be able to consider the final piece of the rebalance puzzle, Taiwan.
… Shang-su Wu is a research fellow in the Military Studies Programme, a constitute unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 16/11/2015