Taiwan’s political leaders are creating the worst possible combination: the provocative cross‐strait policy of President Chen Shui‐bian and the opposition‐dominated legislature’s irresponsible policy on defense spending. That is a blueprint for disaster. The People’s Republic of China has already deployed nearly 1,000 ballistic missiles across the strait from Taiwan, and Beijing’s military modernization program appears to be oriented toward credibly threatening military action if Taipei’s moves toward independence continue. A bold cross‐strait policy coupled with inadequate defense spending virtually invites a PRC challenge at some point. And America would be caught in the middle.
It would be dubious enough for the United States to risk war with an emerging great power like China to defend a small client state, even if that state were making a serious effort to provide for its own defense. It would be even worse to incur that risk on behalf of a client state that is not willing to make a robust defense effort. To minimize the risk of a disastrous conflict, America should promptly terminate any implied defense commitment to Taiwan.