Two Establishment views of the relations between the powers in East Asia popped up in the Japanese press this week. One, offered by Harvard PhD student Lief-Eric Eisley, has a series of recommendations for Taiwan, which is of course at fault in harming US-Taiwan relations (in a US establishment commentary, that goes without saying). Eisley argues that the US isn’t selling out Taiwan to obtain China’ cooperation on North Korea….he recommends:

Taiwan can constructively improve ties with the United States (as well as with Japan and South Korea) by further strengthening its democracy. Taiwan’s political development is impressive and demonstrates commonalities with other free societies, but Taiwan still lacks consolidated democratic institutions. Taipei can also make greater investments toward a credible national defense. Allies are less willing to defend friends who do not show serious efforts to defend themselves.

U.S. cooperation with Taiwan has stalled because the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) controlled executive has played the “democracy card” for political purposes rather than strengthening Taiwan’s democratic institutions. In addition, the Kuomintang (KMT) controlled legislature has obstructed adequate funding for Taiwan’s self-defense. Circumstances may improve after Taiwan’s 2008 presidential election, as both candidates, Frank Hsieh of the DPP and Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT, appear committed to address these matters.

In the meantime, Washington should communicate convincingly that the recent downturn in coordination with Taiwan is not because of a quid pro quo with China over North Korea or because of a reticent U.S.-Japan alliance. Otherwise, misperceptions about the role of Korea and Japan in U.S. Taiwan policy may grow, leading to feelings of betrayal in Taipei, an exaggerated sense of advantage in Beijing, and fears of entrapment in Tokyo. Such developments would not serve Taiwan’s security or U.S. interests.

Korean and Japanese historical developments have had significant effect on Taiwan. But Washington does not link current security issues in ways that force trade offs for U.S. Taiwan policy. There is however, a lack of positive linkages. North Korea dominates the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia’s schedule, and U.S. diplomacy is not doing enough to link friends in North and Southeast Asia. The United States can encourage more consultation among South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and ASEAN to ease Taipei’s concerns about being adversely affected by security mechanisms that exclude Taiwan.

Japan-South Korea-Taiwan coordination should focus on economic issues. Both Tokyo and Seoul could explore free trade agreements with Taiwan. In addition, Tokyo, Seoul and Taipei could benefit from greater information sharing on China’s World Trade Organization (WTO) compliance. The three also share similar concerns for increased economic interdependence with China, and a lack of transparency in Beijing’s military modernizations. On these matters, more Track II or unofficial dialogues among Japan, South Korea and Taiwan could prove useful.

China’s contribution in dealing with North Korea is significant, and the United States would prefer to avoid developments that would disrupt Beijing’s positive role. Tokyo’s commitment to the U.S.-Japan alliance, inclusive of Taiwan contingencies, is vital to East Asian security. However, China-North Korea and U.S.-Japan interactions only indirectly affect Washington’s relations with Taipei.

Recent strain in U.S.-Taiwan relations can be traced to Taiwan’s domestic politics. When Taiwan achieves democratic reforms and builds an internal consensus on national security, cooperation with the United States will improve. Meanwhile, Washington, Tokyo and Seoul should not allow productive relations with Beijing to obscure shared values and interests with a democratic Taiwan.

This follows the standard US line that Taiwan — one of the biggest purchasers of US arms and biggest importers of arms in the world — doesn’t spend enough on defense (that uninformed canard is dealt with here), that Taiwan’s domestic politics are a cause of instability, and ends with the standard bromide that the US and Taiwan share values and interests as fellow democracies. This is all pretty much par for the course for the future undersecretary of something or other circuit. Eisley does point out that the Status Quo is a convenient fiction and that the situation in the Taiwan Straits is dynamically changing. Kudos to him also for calling for free trade agreements with Japan and Korea, and for calling for the US to reassure Taiwan on the North Korea issue. Insider reports from DC like the Nelson Report have repeatedly stated that the US is peeved at Taiwan because it wants China’s help on North Korea….

It is true that the DPP “plays the democracy card” (as the US used to in international affairs before the Bush Administration gutted our moral position in the world) but it also has done much for democratic institutions in Taiwan — simply by being elected, for starters. Most observers miss the progress the DPP has made, since so much of it involves more localization, devolution of power to local governments, and similar moves that foreign observers typically don’t see. Too, US analysts who call for Taiwan to strengthen its democratic institutions rarely condemn the pro-China parties for objecting to such strengthening (instead the condemn the DPP for not carrying it out, as if the bureaucracy were neutral between the parties and the opposition acted in good faith). Such analysts also refrain from criticizing the US for pressing Taiwan not to rewrite its Constitution — but the institutions of democracy here cannot be strengthened without substantial constitutional revision.

Very different is longtime China apologist Gregory Clark’s piece in the Japan Times. Clark’s comments on Taiwan are rather mild, so you can imagine what he is like when he is hitting one for Team Beijing….

Taiwan is a good example. Separation from mainland China in 1949 gave the embattled anticommunist Chinese minority the chance to regroup, regain confidence and even do much to educate the dominant majority during the latter’s periods of ideological madness. Hong Kong, too, has played a crucial in educating and helping its Chinese parent to revive economically. True, those partitions only came about through historical and geographical accident. And Taiwan’s refusal today to accept some reconciliation with the mainland creates problems. But they are significant all the same, today especially.

It’s hard to parse these comments. Does he mean that the anticommunist minority “educated” the island’s majority — presumably the Taiwanese — during periods of ideological madness (democratic development)? Or that they educated the Communists in China? Note that for Clark, it’s Taiwan’s refusal to be annexed that is the cause of trouble between Taiwan and China, not China’s post-1945 discovery that Taiwan had always been sacred national territory. It’s always amusing to see China apologists advocating that Taiwan annex itself to China while safely ensconced in democratic nations far from China’s grip. Show some leadership to Taiwan, Greg, and annex yourself to China first (Jim over at Sponge Bear goes even deeper in showing how awful this piece is).

Clark’s article, which discusses separatism in a number of contexts, points to the Kosovo situation as an example of a state which should come into existence. The interesting thing about the Kosovo situation is that while the US is making tiny Kosovo independent in defiance of both Russian and European wishes, it will not do so with Taiwan in the face of Chinese objections.