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Secretariat, Taipei City Government

News of City Diplomacy

Stanford professor visits Taipei City Government and talks to young people

Dr. William Perry, professor at Stanford University, visited Taipei City Government
with Xu Dalin, chairman of the San Francisco–Taipei sister-city committee, and his delegation on the afternoon of 13 April. In addition to visiting Mayor Ko Wen-je, Dr. Perry also gave a brief speech on his book My Journey At The Nuclear Brink.
 
Now 91 years old, Dr. Perry served as US Secretary of Defense under President Clinton. During the 1996 Taiwan Strait crisis, he prompted President Clinton to send two aircraft carrier battle groups to cruise around the Taiwan Strait, which contributed to the continuing security of the region.
 
At the meeting, Mayor Ko gave Dr. Perry and Chairman Xu a warm welcome and shared with them his thoughts on the current international situation, mentioning the "Thucydides Trap", a phrase coined by Graham Alison of Harvard University. The idea goes back to ancient Greek historian and general Thucydides, who said that a rising power poses an intrinsic challenge to established powers, which leads inevitably to war. Mayor Ko said that the key to peace lies in mutual understanding and the willingness to seek mutually beneficial ways to get along peacefully.
 
Dr. Perry said that the current international situation is not stable, and that any war would not be the result of a direct declaration but rather would be triggered accidentally, like the First World War. He also described the current political climate as overloaded with tension—when political leaders continually squabble and clash, the political situation becomes very unstable, making war more likely. For example, both the United States and China have deployed warships in the South China Sea area, and while the leaders of the two countries may not want war, the captain of a warship might spark a minor conflict through strategic bluffs or misjudgment, and this could in turn lead to full-scale war.
 
Dr. Perry delivered a brief speech, saying that the nuclear threat is even more serious today than it was during the Cold War. The problem is not whether a country can launch a nuclear bomb, but rather that countries who develop nuclear weapons could be misguided or make stupid mistakes that accidentally lead to nuclear explosions and devastation. Humans understand nuclear weapons poorly and our attitude to possible disasters is characterized by carelessness and arrogance.
 
The North Korean government is dictatorial but not crazy, Dr. Perry said, and communist countries do not base all their decisions on ideology. He believes that the motivation for North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons is mainly to prop up the Kim dynasty and defend the country against attacks from the United States. If President Trump reached agreement with North Korea, this would be a breakthrough political achievement for both sides. Dr. Perry also said that the issue of sovereignty over the South China Sea is a key site of conflict between China and the United States, and that the two countries have to communicate and come to a consensus. As for whether the US military will withdraw from South Korea in the future, that question will have to wait until North Korea lifts its threat.
 
The subsequent discussion was moderated by Professor Lin Wen-cheng, from the Institute of China and Asia-Pacific Studies at Sun Yat-sen University and also a member of the International Affairs Advisory Council. Students and scholars from National Taiwan University, National Chengchi University, Ming Chuan University and the University of Taipei were invited to ask questions and join in discussion with Dr. Perry. The meeting concluded in a lively and collegial atmosphere.