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Weakness is provocative Taiwan should be strong! This is an original article from CNA FOCUS TAIWAN!

Matt Pottinger (center) and Ivan Kanapathy (left). CNA photo June 13, 2024

Taipei, June 13 (CNA) One conclusion that can be drawn from recent history is that “weakness is provocative” when facing an aggressor, former United States Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger said at a forum on Thursday, arguing that Taiwan should be strong to push back against aggression and bullying.

Pottinger, a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, was answering a question from Forward Alliance Director Enoch Wu (吳怡農), who moderated the session, about some common misconceptions about the People’s Liberation Army and what consequences that could bring.

Drawing on his new book “The Boiling Moat: Urgent Steps to Defend Taiwan,” Pottinger said contrary to what many believe, state-to-state relations are distinct from interpersonal relations in which people tend to be the first to deliver an olive branch in arguments.

“The weaker a dictatorship thinks we are, and the more that we try to appease them or reassure them, the more aggressive they become,” Pottinger said.

China is “an aggressive state across the Taiwan Strait that is becoming more and more aggressive primarily because it believes it can get away with that aggression because we’ve fallen into this sense of self-doubt or the fear we might be provoking” aggression, he said.

Pottinger delved into recent history for examples, linking the U.S.’ failure to deliver on its word that it would retaliate against the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad if his regime used chemical weapons against its own people to the invasion of Crimea by Russia in 2014.

Similarly, when the Taliban overthrew the Afghan government and the U.S. retreated from Afghanistan, Russia began a new phase of its war with Ukraine six months later, he said.

Not long ago, the U.S. lifted sanctions on the Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro, who is now amassing troops on the border of Guyana, threatening to invade and annex part of the country, Pottinger said.

“So there’s a pattern here. We need to be strong, sometimes uncomfortably strong, in order, paradoxically, to achieve peace itself,” he said.

Ivan Kanapathy, who co-authored the book, argued that Taiwan, separated from China by the Taiwan Strait — the figurative “boiling moat” — should invest in more missiles and drones, especially loitering munitions with self-destruct capabilities once they come into contact with enemy targets, which are “lethal.”

Taiwan should “have those in extremely large quantities, orders of magnitude more than we currently find here on this island,” as part of reform efforts it should undertake to build up its defense capabilities, said Kanapathy, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Asked by Wu why he had alluded in one chapter that Taiwan’s Indigenous Defense Submarine (IDS) program was a “misallocation of resources,” Kanapathy said that is a matter of cost-benefit. Taiwan’s gross domestic income is about 5 percent that of China and its actual defense budget, estimated at US$700 billion according to the U.S. government — about three times what China admits to, Kanapathy noted.

In addition, Taiwan’s geography makes submarines “too vulnerable,” and although they would be critical in a potential war with China, “they’re going to come to this fight from well outside when the time comes because that’s how they will be used most effectively and how they have the most survivability,” he said.

Pottinger echoed that view, arguing that Taiwan should have put the money it spent on the IDS program on, for example, building a large fleet of undersea unmanned vehicles, which would be “more effective” against and “very dangerous” to the Chinese Navy.


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