Amid increasing tensions between U.S. and China over South China Sea and North Korea (see entries), U.S. 29 June announced it would sell Taiwan $1.4bn in military hardware over coming years, including missiles, torpedoes and electronic warfare system upgrades. U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee 28 June proposed that U.S. Navy resume regular port calls to Taiwan, suspended since 1979 start of “one China” policy. China urged immediate halt to moves, saying they “severely violate the three joint communiqués between China and the U.S., and constitute interference in China’s domestic affairs”. In 4 June remarks to Shangri-La Dialogue, U.S. Sec Defense Mattis said U.S. committed to providing Taiwan with “the defence articles necessary”. Panama 12 June announced it would sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish formal relations with China, recognise “one China” policy and consider Taiwan part of Chinese territory; leaves only nineteen countries plus Vatican with formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
After drifting toward crisis for much of 2004, the outlook for stability across the Taiwan Strait has improved.
Each side’s most preferred solution for resolving the continuing Taiwan Strait issue – in the case of Taipei, widely recognised de jure independence; and in the case of Beijing, reunification of China on the same ‘one country, two systems’ basis as Hong Kong – are both non-starters.
Apparently irreconcilable positions on the ‘one China’ principle have emerged between China and Taiwan over the last decade, with Taiwan for some time now asserting not only that it is a separate political entity but an independent sovereign country.
China's underlying position on its cross-Strait relations, however strong its current commitment to peaceful diplomacy, is that Taiwan must make sustained, visible progress toward a peaceful settlement or risk a resort to armed hostilities.
In the last decade, Taiwan has moved slowly but surely away from its commitment to the idea of ‘one China’, the proposition, long agreed on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, that Taiwan and the mainland are parts of one country.