Strategic ambiguity is unlikely to continue to deter an increasingly capable, emboldened China from attacking Taiwan.
so long as the United States keeps the commitment, shifting to a certain commitment, instead of an ambiguous one, seems logical—increasing China’s certainty in the United States’ response would enhance deterrence.
the United States will come to Taiwan’s defense if China’s attack is unprovoked
es it harder for the United States to deter an invasion. Proponents of ambiguity fear that an explicit commitment would, at best, cause irreparable damage to U.S.-Chinese relations and, at worst, increase the likelihood of an invasion.
If those who can make the call conclude that a future attack is likely, and if we also think that Washington (as seems very likely) would respond with military force, then it makes sense to enhance U.S. deterrence—including by unambiguously and unequivocally pledging to defend Taiwan.
The United States also needs to (1) urge and help Taiwan to strengthen its self-defense and (2) plan with U.S. allies in the region for responsibility-sharing in case of a conflict
but U.S. policy remains bound by the Taiwan Relations Act, Three Communiques, and Six Assurances.
The TRA, as domestic law, obligates the United States to “maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security
Washington should be prepared to manage risks of such a policy clarification, such as opposition from the PRC, greater PRC pressures against Taiwan, and wider U.S.-China decoupling.
To promote greater stability in the Taiwan Strait, the United States and its allies and friends should accelerate efforts to deepen support for Taiwan in the military, economic, and diplomatic spheres, both privately and publicly.
“Strategic ambiguity” clearly needs updating
China should be made aware through actions, and perhaps private conversations, that the United
I believe the United States should make effectively clear that it would defend Taiwan but not publicly and ostentatiously move to strategic clarity.
I believe it is very important for the United States to defend Taiwan.
If pledging to “use military force” means helping the Taiwanese to defend themselves against armed conquest, that is already American policy.
demonstrated capability should create deterrence more effectively
The United States should do more to help Taiwan prepare to defend itself and should never rule out coming to its defense. But we would do the people of Taiwan a great and potentially historic disservice by making promises that are not backed by any law or formal agreement that—particularly given our dysfunctional politics—we absolutely cannot be sure we would keep. Can anyone making this promise in the pages of Foreign Affairs know that a future American president would keep it?
the flexibility built into strategic ambiguity still gives the United States the widest range of options to respond to developments, including any that fall short of all-out military invasion. And as President Joe Biden’s recent string of statements committing to defend Taiwan show, the United States can still offer strong support for Taiwan and reinforce deterrence without an official change in policy.
China already assumes U.S. intervention in the event of a conflict and is building up the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) based on this assumption.
As appropriate given increased Chinese capabilities and provocative behavior, Biden administration statements have highlighted the probability of intervention without changing U.S. policy.
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