China attack on Taiwan unlikely during a Korean-U.S. war: scholars

Washington-Two American scholars on Monday expressed disagreement with a Canadian expert's view that if war breaks out between the United States and North Korea, China would use the opportunity to attack Taiwan.

"(China) can only handle one external crisis at a time," said Richard Bush, director of the Washington-based Brookings Institution's Center for East Asia Policy Studies and former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan.

A North Korea crisis "would be the worst thing that PRC leaders have ever faced," he said to the press after a forum in Washington, D.C.

Therefore, regardless of what China might like to do about Taiwan, "they would restrain themselves" from any military moves at that time "because China' national security interests are so wrapped up in the North Korea issue," Bush said.

Bush was responding to a magazine editorial last month by Michael Cole, a Canadian expert on cross-Taiwan Strait relations, who said that in the event of a North Korea-U.S. war, China would take the opportunity to launch an attack against Taiwan.

"I would argue, therefore, that a decision to launch military strikes against North Korea would represent the most dangerous period for Taiwan's survival, as this could prompt Beijing to seize the opportunity created by the American focus on North Korea to resolve its historical grievance," Cole wrote in the editorial, which was published Dec. 27 last year in the U.S. bimonthly international affairs magazine National Interest.

In response, Michael O'Hanlon, another fellow at the Brookings Institution, also said to the media that he was "inclined not to agree" with Cole's outlook on the issue.

O'Hanlon, director of research for the institute's Foreign Policy program, said such action would be "another huge risk" for China.

"There is no reason to run another huge risk just because there is an action to the north that somehow creates a perceived opportunity," O'Hanlon said.

Furthermore, it would be "foolish" because it would by "no means make a Chinese attack on Taiwan automatically successful," especially since the U.S. could still use elements of its navy to support Taiwan "because most of the navy will not be needed in a future Korean war," O'Hanlon said, adding that he does not think China is that foolish.

However, that does not prevent China from using other moves to pressure Taiwan, he said.

Relations between China and Taiwan have grown chilly and tense since President Tsai Ing-wen (???) took office in May 2016, with Beijing targeting Taiwan's diplomatic allies, activists and efforts at participation in international organizations.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel