Bilhari Kausikan, former Permanent Secretary of Singapore’s foreign ministry, told CNBC that there are “more intelligent ways” to support Taiwan than US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting the island.
The move could undermine efforts by the US and other countries to support Taiwan in the future and further complicate Taiwan’s political ties with China, he told CNBC’s “Street Science Asia” on Friday.
Kaushikan said, “I think Taiwan needs and deserves support, but has it achieved anything that’s worthwhile? I don’t think so. In fact, I think it made things more spoiled.”
Ignoring weeks of warnings from Beijing, Pelosi visited Taiwan and met with President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday. Taiwan is a self-governing democracy, but Beijing considers the island a separate province and says it has no right to conduct foreign relations.
Pelosi’s visit has made her the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
China started military exercise The next day in the airspace and waters around Taiwan. On Friday, Beijing announced sanctions against Pelosi and members of his immediate family, though the content of those sanctions was undecided.
Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), photographs with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan August 03, 2022.
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“Taiwan needs some capabilities… what does Taiwan need diplomatic support. Taiwan doesn’t need a visit, which can give you a good moment… and after that, other countries from going to Taiwan could stop, if they see a strong response from China,” Kausikan said.
He said whether the visit was good or bad for Taiwan remains “at least an open question”. “There are many other ways, more intelligent ways, less risky ways to give Taiwan the support it needs and deserves.”
Kaushikan said the visit could disturb the status quo in the region and prompted China to react “quasi-hysterically”, adding that it “gave an excuse to China to fire missiles close to Taiwan”. “.
Still, the former diplomat said a conflict between China and Taiwan is unlikely.
China is not keen on attacking Taiwan and the broad military consensus suggests that China does not yet have the capability to launch a full-scale “amphibian” military operation, he said.
“And let’s not forget that all the blunders that China did during and after the visit, it still failed to stop the visit,” Kaushikan said.
But accidents happen and they have happened in the past too, he said.
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said it is the potential accidents that are most worrying.
While an immediate war is unlikely, Rudd is concerned that the Chinese may see Pelosi’s visit as a US walk away from a 1982 agreement to recognize the “one China policy”.
“Then I think we’re in a whole new world,” he said on CNBC’s “Capital Connection.”
“There is a fast-fearing, fractured relationship between you two countries,” he said. “It simply takes out a matchstick to kindle a flame, which then more or less catches fire.”
“That’s what I’m worried about – not tomorrow, not next month, but certainly in the years to come, especially [Chinese President] Xi Jinping is likely to be re-elected or re-appointed.”
Rudd said war down the line cannot be ruled out entirely, however, especially since US-China relations are unlikely to recover over the next decade.