《TAIPEI TIMES》 Official appears to reject calls for US to declare stance
Then-Asia Group chairman Kurt Campbell, who is now US National Security Council coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, speaks at the China Development Forum in Beijing on March 23, 2019. Photo: Reuters
/ Reuters, WASHINGTON
A US official on Tuesday appeared to reject calls for Washington to make a clear statement of its willingness to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack, saying there were “significant downsides” to such an approach.
US National Security Council Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific Kurt Campbell told a discussion hosted by the Financial Times that it was appropriate to be concerned about the Taiwan situation.
However, Campbell said he believed there was appreciation in the US and China that maintenance of some degree of “status quo” was in the best interests of Washington and Beijing.
“I believe that there are some significant downsides to the kind of what is called strategic clarity that you lay out,” Campbell said when asked about calls from some US academics and others for Washington to give Taipei a more explicit security guarantee.
Campbell said that any conflict between the US and China over Taiwan would not likely be contained to a small area.
“I think it would broaden quickly and it would fundamentally trash the global economy in ways that I don’t think anyone can predict,” he said.
There was some concern that China assessed it “got away scot-free” after its crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong and “could draw the wrong conclusions from that” when it came to its actions toward Taiwan, Campbell said.
The best way to maintain peace and stability was to send a consolidated message to China that combined diplomacy and US defense innovation, Campbell said.
He expected in the next couple of months to see “practical diplomatic engagement” with China on North Korea and other issues of the kind engaged in by US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley.
The real short and medium-term risks were from “accidents and inadvertence,” given the proximity of US and Chinese forces, Campbell said.
It was important to build confidence between Washington and Beijing, and ensure communications in moments of crisis, he said.
Those precautions resembled the checks and safeguards employed during the Cold War, Campbell said, but added that China had been reluctant to use them.
“So we do have a hotline, it’s known to have, the couple of times we’ve used it, just rung in an empty room for hours upon hours,” he said, without elaborating.