Germany is considering a break from decades of military non-confrontation.
High ranking officials are contemplating sending a warship through the Taiwan Strait – joining the United States and France in challenging Beijing’s claims to what the West regards as an international waterway.
If Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government actually goes ahead, it will be a remarkable revision of its we-keep-out-of-conflict reflexes. Germany will be openly backing its allies in a strategy certain to be found provocative by the country’s enforcers of non-combatant passivity.
Recent examples of Germany’s reluctance to engage include the withdrawal of its navy from the combat zone during the West’s Libyan intervention in 2011, caveats on its troop deployments in Afghanistan and its decision not to participate directly in attacks on Islamic State forces in Syria – unlike its Nato neighbours Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and France.
A German official informed me of the Taiwan Strait plan last month. Last week, a second German official, at my request, confirmed its discussion by the defence ministry. No firm decision was expected before the end of the summer.
The strait in question is the body of water between China and Taiwan, which Beijing considers to be its territorial zone. When a French frigate transited in April, it was shadowed by Chinese military and warned to leave. Beijing said it made “stern representations” to Paris about the vessel’s “illegal” passage.
Later that month, the United States sent two destroyers into the strait “demonstrating the US’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific”, according to an American spokesman.