East Asia Forum: The case for Strategic Unambiguity on Taiwan

With China concluding joint military exercises around Taiwan in May 2024, the global community is increasingly concerned about potential conflicts. Asha Clark, a lead China and Taiwan analyst for MITRE, and a former China subject matter expert at NATO, writes in East Asia Forum that the U.S. must move away from strategic ambiguity regarding its defense of Taiwan to prevent serious provocations from China. 

Clark notes, “Since 1979, the US–Taiwan defense relationship has been nebulous. This ‘grey area’ within the US–China–Taiwan relationship has worked well, as earlier CCP administrations remained pacified within the status quo of the One China Policy. Despite U.S. assurances that it will come to Taiwan’s defense in a conflict, the scope of U.S. military involvement remains unclear. Many in Washington have unofficially termed this ‘strategic ambiguity,’ though the United States has a legal basis to come to Taiwan’s aid via the Taiwan Relations Act.” 

“Increased U.S. clarity will serve deterrence in two ways: it will present a unified front, weakening China’s strategic messaging, which is used to create doubt in the credibility of US–Taiwan defense, and it will force China to stand by its commitments to ‘never renounce the use of force’ in a Taiwan conflict, testing the CCP’s legitimacy,” concludes Clark. 

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