April 13, 2006

Book argues US must stay out of China-Taiwan spat

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States should renounce
military commitments to Taiwan to avoid a potentially costly
conflict if the island declares independence from China, said
the author of book which warns of a U.S.-China war within the
next decade.

Defending Taiwan from the attack China threatens to unleash
in the event of an independence declaration is "a bridge too
far" for the United States, said Ted Galen Carpenter, vice
president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato
Institute, a libertarian Washington think tank.

Rather than promising to defend Taiwan, Carpenter said,
Washington should step up arms shipments to help the old U.S.
friend defend itself.

His book, "America's Coming War with China : A Collision
Course over Taiwan," says the United States stands between two
inexorably opposed forces an unfinished Chinese civil war.

"There may not be a way to avoid a collision between Taiwan
and China, unless one side or another blinks," Carpenter told
Reuters in an interview. "What the United States needs to do is
to get out of the middle of that quarrel."

A war between the United States and China could erupt by
about 2013, the estimated date China would be militarily
capable of seizing Taiwan, Carpenter says in the book. An
attack on Taiwan could draw in the United States because it has
given defense assurances to the island.

"At some point either Taiwan provokes Beijing beyond
endurance or Beijing decides the time is right to settle this
issue on Chinese terms," Carpenter, a frequent author on
military issues, said in the interview.

"Given the trends on Taiwan and the mainland, I think a
collision is very likely at some point within the next decade,"
he said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao will visit the United States
next week and is expected to press President George W. Bush to
do more to rein in Taiwan, which has angered Beijing by taking
symbolic steps to play down the island's ties to the mainland.

"President Hu is likely to be disappointed if he expects a
forceful statement from the United States," said Carpenter.

Taiwan has been divided from China since 1949, when fleeing
Nationalist forces turned the island into a stronghold against
the mainland's new Communist rulers.

China says it will use military force if Taiwan declares
independence. The United States accepts Beijing's "one China"
policy, but provides arms to help defend Taiwan.

Carpenter's book argues that U.S. policy sends mixed
signals by courting China for business opportunities and
diplomatic support while offering protection to Taiwan, a
democracy with many friends in the U.S. Congress.

Withdrawing the U.S. defense commitment "will be a very
hard sell politically," Carpenter acknowledges. But he says
more robust arms sales to Taiwan might provide cover for
Washington to back away from a pledge of direct involvement.