0421: U.S. Congressional Delegation Calling for U.S.-Taiwan FTA, China “Very Likely” to Seize Taiwan’s Kinmen

Visiting U.S. Congressional Delegation Calls for U.S.-Taiwan FTA and Reaffirms Support for Taiwan

A U.S.-Taiwan free trade agreement (FTA) will boost bilateral economic ties and act as a “deterrence” to China’s aggression toward Taiwan, Senator Robert Portman, part of a senior Congressional delegation on a brief visit to Taiwan, said on April 15.

A bipartisan group of American lawmakers, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, arrived in Taiwan on April 14 evening. The delegation also includes Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Robert Portman (R-OH), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Ben Sasse (R-NB), as well as Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX).

Sen. Portman, who serves as the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said at a press conference in Taipei on April 15 that the U.S. should reach out to Taiwan and begin talks on a bilateral FTA.

Such a trade deal would “deepen bilateral economic ties in ways that would be good for both countries economically,” Portman said, adding that it would at the same time “act as a deterrence to any malign activity that China might be considering.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Menendez, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the security of Taiwan had a global impact and that the U.S. would continue supporting Taiwan, during a meeting with Taiwan’s President Tsai at the Presidential Office.

“As a co-chair of the Senate Taiwan Caucus, I am proud to be back to reaffirm our rock-solid relationship with Taiwan,” Menendez said, adding that the delegation’s presence in Taiwan amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent “a powerful message” to the Taiwanese people.

“With Taiwan producing 90 percent of the world’s high-end semiconductor products, it is a country of global significance” and “therefore, it should be understood that the security of Taiwan has a global impact,” Menendez said.

Sen. Graham echoed Menendez’s views, saying that Taiwan was “indispensable to the digital economy for the world and the United States,” and that “we hope to strengthen the [bilateral] ties even more economically.”

Meanwhile, President Tsai said that democracies must bolster their alliances and together defy the threats posed by authoritarian nations. Tsai also expressed hope that Taiwan would play “an active role” in the new Indo-Pacific Strategy proposed by the U.S. government and be part of the efforts to continue safeguarding regional peace and stability.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202204150020
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202204150010
[3] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/04/16/2003776684

China “Very Likely” to Seize Taiwan’s Kinmen as Distraction: Taiwanese Official

It is “very likely” that China will seize Taiwan’s outlying islands such as Kinmen and Matsu, as Chinese President Xi Jinping seeks to divert attention from domestic troubles and fulfill his perceived “historical duties,” a Taiwanese official familiar with cross-strait affairs said.

After Xi extends his term as expected later this year, he might face compounding economic and other problems, leading to growing domestic dissatisfaction with his performance, the official said to the Liberty Times on condition of anonymity.

Xi would likely respond to increased internal unrest by tightening crackdowns on dissent and shifting the focus to “historical duties” of “unifying Taiwan,” the official said.

Given the difficulties of seizing Taiwan proper, the official said that China might first assault outer islands which are beyond Taiwan’s core defenses, such as Kinmen, Matsu, the Dongsha Islands (Pratas Islands), and the Taiping Island (Itu Aba).

China might also take a cue from Russia’s attempted annexation of the “pro-Russia” separatist areas in eastern Ukraine as a pretext for its invasion, and claim that the people of the “pro-China” islands of Kinmen and Matsu wish to “return” to the motherland, the official said.

The official pointed out that Kinmen residents could be vulnerable to Chinese manipulation, as they enjoy the freedom and social welfare provided by Taiwan, while also welcoming the economic opportunities afforded by China.

The source predicted that if China limited itself to an invasion of the outer islands only, Taiwan might not have the military capabilities to retake them, and foreign countries would be very unlikely to send in troops.

When asked about the possibility of China attacking Kinmen and Matsu, the official stressed that it is “very likely,” as it would be less likely to trigger international sanctions than attacking Taiwan proper.

The official pointed out that Taiwan currently only has a framework for peaceful cross-strait exchanges and lacks legal guidelines to follow in the event of war. After Xi secures his third term in office, the situation may change from peace to war. Taiwan needs to establish legal procedures to deal with various military scenarios.

[1] Liberty Times (in Hanji): https://news.ltn.com.tw/news/politics/paper/1512395
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2022/04/19/2003776854
[3] Taiwan News: https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4513028