This paper examines the role of nuclear weapons, if any, in Taiwan s defense strategy. Facing acute existential threat and having no representation in global and regional security forums, Taiwan has nonetheless chosen nuclear restraint. This is due to instrumental considerations and normative change. While Taiwan is not completely certain about the commitment of its key backer- the United States - to its security (a policy known as "strategic ambiguity''), the main pillars to its security remain conventional deterrence and Americas tacit nuclear umbrella - in addition to its economic strengths and democratic appeal as soft power. The paper explores Taiwan's attempt during the Cold War to develop nuclear weapons, the conflicting objectives of the United States, and the post-Cold War normative evolution. It also analyzes the (extraordinary) conditions under which Taiwan might contemplate a "nuclear option," assesses the pros and cons of this action; and argues that maintaining a "virtual" or near-proliferating capacity is advisable in the light of evolving trends in the military balance (especially conventional force) in the Taiwan Strait.

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Copyright © 2008, Tamkang University College of International Studies. This article first appeared in Tamkang Journal of International Affairs: 11:4 (2008), 31-76.

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