Resetting US-Taiwan Relations: American and Taiwanese Perspectives

On September 13th I participated in a Hudson Institute event, Resetting US-Taiwan Relations: American and Taiwanese Perspectives.

Dr. Stephen Bryen speaking at the Hudson Institute, September 13, 2018

You can find the full video of the panel discussion at the address below:


My part starts at 100.02 minutes and ends at 114.06 minutes.  If you wish you can watch just my part or the other presentations entirely.
I stressed five main points:
1. We are at a crossroads regarding China and Taiwan.  The old idea that we can somehow come to Taiwan’s rescue is no longer valid.  China is much more powerful than it was in 1996 when there was an active crisis in the form of a missile and invasion threat against Taiwan.  I know it very well because I was there at the time with Jim Woolsey.  It took two full weeks to convince the wary and frightened Clinton administration to finally deploy two aircraft carriers to the Taiwan area. Today such a scenario is unthinkable.
2. My first recommendation is we need high level military to military strategic and tactical planning between Taiwan and the United States.  Others could join the process either openly or covertly, especially Japan.  Such a planning effort will define the scenarios and threats and figure out the reaction to each one, as well as pinpointing vulnerabilities so we can fix them properly.
3. My second recommendation is we should copy or emulate the brilliant virtual exercise recently carried out in Italy with German, US and NATO participation.  All of this was done with computers –not a plane, missile, submarine, surface ship or army was used, all of it was virtual.  We need to set this up for Taiwan and get the local allies, especially Japan and Korea to participate.  It is immensely valuable.  The result is a kind of Virtual Alliance, but China won’t know what is going on and no one exposes themselves to political or strategic risk in participating.
4. My fourth recommendation is to consider building a regional alliance, something Michael Tsai, Taiwan’s former Defense Minister also noted.  The United States needs to provide the leadership for an alliance and for conforming the types of military hardware that all participants use, especially the F-35.  Taiwan needs to have the F-35 because it is in our interest for Taiwan to have the F-35.  It also gives us a single logistics chain to support the aircraft both for our own forces and for our friends.  This is terribly important in case of war.  Likewise it demonstrates American resolve to support the balance of forces in the region and to lead the regional defenses.  Similarly we need to preposition war stocks in Taiwan and in the other countries, so we will have the supplies we need when we need them and not days or weeks too late.
5. Finally we need to think seriously about some form of basing in Taiwan for our aircraft.  Even if the bases are only used occasionally, China won’t miss the point.
For a long time China has focused on trying to sink one of our aircraft carriers because Chinese military planners thought the main threat to them was our aircraft carriers. But if the above recommendations are followed, China will have to rethink its strategy and maybe back off threatening Taiwan and Japan.


–Stephen Bryen