Taiwan welcomes US missile deployment in Luzon

Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

TAIPEI — Taiwan does not intend to provoke China into an armed invasion, but Taipei welcomes the deployment of missiles by the US in the northern Philippines, a top Taiwanese official said here this week.

Deputy Foreign Minister Chung-kwang Tien told The STAR on June 18 that new Taiwan President William Lai, tagged by Beijing as a separatist, has said his administration does not intend to provoke China. 

Tien said that as enunciated by Lai, Taiwan’s current policy is “we are not going to use provocative things, words or deeds to antagonize the other side.”

Last Monday, another Taiwanese foreign ministry official also said Lai has publicly softened his position from years ago in support of Taiwan independence.

Catherine Hsu, director general of the Department of International Information Services in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Lai’s “pragmatic” stance on Taiwan’s independence means “we don’t provoke.”

Last April, the US Army deployed Typhon missiles in Northern Luzon for the Salaknib joint military exercises with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The US Army, in a statement, said: “In a historic first, the 1st Multi-Domain Task Force successfully deployed the Mid-Range Capability (MRC) missile system to Northern Luzon, Philippines, on April 11, 2024, as part of Exercise Salaknib 24.”

“This landmark deployment marks a significant milestone for the new capability while enhancing interoperability, readiness and defense capabilities in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” the statement declared.

The missile launcher can fire Tomahawk cruise missiles and SM-6 missiles.

It is unclear if there will be more missile deployments for future joint drills between the treaty allies, but the move was condemned by Beijing.

Hsu, when asked by foreign journalists about the possibility of armed conflict between Taiwan and China, said, “We don’t think war is inevitable. We don’t think war is unavoidable. We just want to prevent the worst from happening.”

Certain quarters saw the deployment as part of preparations for a Chinese invasion to retake Taiwan, which some US officials say could happen as early as 2027. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping recently told European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that the US is trying to provoke China to invade Taiwan.

Asked for comment on the missile deployment in Northern Luzon, Tien stressed the importance of maintaining a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” with no one trying to unilaterally change the status quo using armed force, in contravention of international rules.

“Whoever can collectively protect this area should be welcome,” Tien told The STAR, as he pointed out that among Taipei’s allies, the Philippines is located closest to Taiwan. 

“We share the same waters,” he said. “Keeping this area secure and prosperous is our responsibility.”

Taiwan’s sea claim

Taiwan is also claiming parts of the Spratly island chain. The Taiwan government, at the time the recognized representative of China, first set out the imaginary demarcation called the nine-dash line after World War II, unilaterally delineating China’s maritime domain in the South China Sea.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, acting on a petition filed by the Philippines, invalidated this entire claim for having no basis in international law. In the same ruling, the PCA defined the Philippines’ maritime entitlements within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

China has refused to abide by the PCA ruling, which other countries led by the Group of Seven advanced economies have described as legally binding.

But Beijing submitted a statement on its stand on the issue, which cited both the Treaty of Paris and the clarificatory Treaty of Washington in 1900 in defending its maritime claim.

Retired Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio recently pointed out that in this submission, Beijing inadvertently acknowledged the validity of the Philippine claim in the West Philippine Sea, as defined in the Treaty of Washington.

Asked if the PCA ruling meant Taiwan was dropping the nine-dash-line claim, Tien echoed what former Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu Jaushieh had told The STAR last year: Taiwan was not consulted on the issue and its maritime claim stands.

Tien said historical claims on territory are complicated to resolve. 

The difference between Taiwan and China, Tien stressed, is how claimants with overlapping claims deal with the issue.

Taiwan, Tien said, can talk with the Philippines, or join hands for maritime exploration, while China resorts to force and intimidation, such as the use of high-pressure water cannons and ramming of Philippine vessels.

“They show muscle,” Tien said. “This is an uncivilized way.”

While China resorts to intimidation and aggressive harassment, Taiwan prefers to make friends. Tien stressed that unlike Beijing, Taipei does not put recipients of its aid in a debt trap, or require the recipients to give up their sovereignty.

“Taiwan will never, never do that,” Tien said, adding that in dealing with aid recipients, the Chinese “always give empty promises… in the end they cannot deliver.”

In a related development, Tien expressed Taiwan’s appreciation for the Filipinos working or living permanently in Taiwan, now numbering about 200,000.

“We appreciate so much their contributions,” Tien said. “They are the ones who contribute to Taiwan’s development.”

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with