0428: Blinken’s Remarks on Taiwan’s Defense; Bill Passed to Support Taiwan’s WHO Status; U.S. Warship Transiting Taiwan Strait

Blinken Highlights Taiwan’s Importance to U.S. Semiconductor Strength, While Reasserting U.S. Commitment to Enhance Taiwan’s Defense

Taiwan’s chip sector is vital to help the U.S. maintain a technology edge over China, and the U.S. will continue to assist Taiwan in strengthening its “asymmetric” defense capabilities, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 26.

Blinken said the U.S. is “determined to make sure that [Taiwan] has all necessary means to defend itself against any potential aggression, including unilateral action by China, to disrupt the status quo that’s been in place now for many decades.”

“We’re focused on helping [Taiwan] think about how to strengthen asymmetric capabilities . . . as a deterrent,” Blinken added.

The committee’s chair, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), said there is now greater consensus between Taiwan and the U.S. on the specifics of building up Taiwan’s defense. “I think we are now aligned between our views of what their asymmetric capabilities need to be and their views, which is an important thing,” Menendez said.

Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) also urged Blinken to do more to help Taiwan’s defense.

“We started too late in providing security assistance to Ukraine. We cannot make the same mistake with Taiwan. Supporting an island during the war is much more difficult. Our assistance must be there beforehand,” Risch said.

Menendez also discussed the issue of semiconductors with Blinken, warning that if China were to control Taiwan, which produces 90% of the world’s high-end chips, “the world would be in a world of hurt.”

Given those circumstances, if the U.S. did not help Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack, it would send a message to other countries that “they [the U.S.] didn’t do it for Taiwan, they’re not going to do it for us,” Menendez said.

Blinken responded by saying the U.S. had a significant advantage over China in the ability to produce the highest end semiconductors, and noted that a few countries including Taiwan were critical to that.

The U.S. is taking significant steps with Taiwan, Japan and the Netherlands, among others, to make sure “the highest-end semiconductors are not transferred to China, or China does not get the technology to manufacture them,” he said.

“Taiwan is integral to that,” Blinken added.

[1] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/04/28/2003777350
[2] Taiwan News: https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4520400

Bill to Help Taiwan Regain WHA Observer Status Sent to President Biden for Signature

On April 27, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to ask the State Department to submit a plan to help Taiwan to regain its observer status in the World Health Organization (WHO).

The House passed the bill (H.R.1145) by a 425-0 vote, after an identical bill (S.812) passed the Senate last August. It will now be sent to the White House where President Joe Biden is expected to sign the measure into law.

The measure directs the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to regain observer status for Taiwan at the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the WHO.

Taiwan was stripped of that status in 2017, after Tsai Ing-wen was elected president.

Speaking during the House session where the bill was passed, Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA), co-chair of the House Taiwan Caucus, said China has been trying to limit and constrain Taiwan’s meaningful participation in all international organizations, including pressuring the WHO to strip Taiwan’s observer status in the WHA.

“As the co-chair of the Taiwan caucus, I can tell you, that makes no sense. This bipartisan measure would support efforts that enabled Taiwan to share its public health expertise and experience with the world at a time we needed badly [during the pandemic].”

He added that the passage of this bill, ahead of the World Health Assembly meeting next month, “would not only be timely, it would also demonstrate the strong, bipartisan, bicameral commitment the U.S. Congress has to our democratic friend, Taiwan.”

The 75th WHA meeting is scheduled to take place from May 22 to 28.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202204280008
[2] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/bill-help-taiwan-regain-who-status-passes-congress-sent-biden-signature-2022-04-27/

U.S. Warship Transits Taiwan Strait for Fourth Time This Year

On April 26, a U.S. Navy destroyer sailed through the Taiwan Strait to show Washington’s “commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the 7th Fleet under the U.S. Pacific Command said in a statement.

The ship, identified as an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the USS Sampson (DDG-102), made the transit as part of a “routine operation and was done in accordance with international laws,” the statement said.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it said, adding that “The United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.”

The latest transit was the fourth time this year a U.S. warship has transited the narrow waterway separating Taiwan and China.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense also confirmed the transit, saying that Taiwan’s military was on top of the situation as a U.S. warship sailed north in the Taiwan Strait, and it did not see any irregularities.

China’s military, however, condemned the U.S. over the transit, saying such “provocative” actions “deliberately” harm peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait.

[1] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2022/04/28/2003777361
[2] Liberty Times (in Hanji): https://news.ltn.com.tw/news/politics/paper/1514086