- FOREIGN POLICY - Derek Grossman - AUG 22, 2022 -
Almost the entire region backs China—but the regime’s behavior has also crystallized support for Taiwan.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan this month prompted China to conduct unprecedented military drills that included surrounding the island on all sides, firing missiles over it, and taking other highly aggressive steps. Heightened tensions in the Taiwan Strait also elicited responses from other nations in the Indo-Pacific that predictably and overwhelmingly upheld Beijing’s “One China” principle—that Taiwan is part of mainland China. Pelosi’s trip made it equally clear, however, that key U.S. allies strongly support Taiwan’s cause as well, particularly in the face of a potential war over the island, suggesting that Beijing’s assertive behavior is steadily alienating nations that otherwise may have minded their own business.
At the very forefront of support for Taiwan are Japan and Australia. Along with the United States, they issued a joint statement on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, expressing their “concern about [China’s] recent actions that gravely affect international peace and stability” and urging Beijing “to immediately cease the military exercises.” Their statement also noted “there is no change in the respective [O]ne China policies” of Australia, Japan, and the United States, though this was clearly not the focus.
Another important U.S. ally, South Korea, played its cards very differently. Pelosi’s next stop after Taipei was to Seoul, where South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol claimed to be on a staycation and opted for a phone call with her instead—which some interpreted as a snub. There was no official South Korean statement on Taiwan. When asked to comment, a South Korean official from the president’s office urged “close communication with relevant parties” without mentioning China or Taiwan—essentially a non-statement that favors Beijing because it refrains from supporting Taipei.
Likewise, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin stuck to anodyne talking points, noting that “intensifying geopolitical conflict in the Taiwan Strait could hamper political and economic stability in the region” and have “negative ripple effect on the Korean Peninsula.” The week after Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and South Korea, Park visited China for the first time, suggesting that Seoul did not want to rock the boat with Beijing just before this crucial engagement.
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