0521: U.S. Vaccines for Taiwan, China’s “Vaccine War,” A “War Reserve Stocks for Allies Program” in Taiwan

Taiwan Seeks U.S. Vaccines amid COVID Surge

On May 18, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) reported that Taiwan is trying to secure more COVID-19 vaccines from the United States, after President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. will send 20 million vaccines overseas by the end of June.

In a speech delivered on May 17, Biden said that 20 million vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson stockpiles, will be supplied overseas within the next six weeks. However, he did not reveal to which countries the vaccines will be going. 

The procurement of vaccines has become an urgent issue in Taiwan as more than 1,800 new domestic infections have been reported since May 15. The outbreak is exacerbated by the fact that despite its population of 23 million people, Taiwan has only received about 710,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and only 1% of its people have been inoculated.

Taiwan’s representative to the United States, Hsiao Bi-khim, has made known to the U.S. about Taiwan’s wish to acquire vaccines. Taiwan aided the U.S. in the early days of the pandemic through donations of PPE, and hopes that the U.S. will continue to support its strong partnership with Taiwan and make Taiwan a priority on the list of countries for the U.S. 20 million vaccines contribution.

Taiwan is working hard to contain the spread of COVID-19 and avoid an economic lockdown. Such lockdown measures would also impact the United States’ recovery by threatening Taiwan’s critical production of semiconductor chips and other electronics products essential to America’s technology and auto industries.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202105180026
[2] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taiwan-says-it-is-talks-covid-19-vaccines-us-2021-05-18/
[3] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/society/202105190009

China Politicizes Vaccines to Isolate Taiwan

China has recently ramped up its strategy of leveraging vaccine access for political purposes to further diplomatically isolate Taiwan.

On May 11, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez announced the Central American nation, a Taiwan’s long-standing diplomatic ally, is considering opening a trade office in China in order to buy Chinese-produced coronavirus vaccines. Hernandez said he would do as the Chinese had requested and pursue a “diplomatic bridge.”

Just weeks before, China dangled a similar proposition in front of Paraguay, Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in South America. China insisted that states must comply with China’s diplomatic isolation of Taiwan as a condition of receiving Chinese vaccines.

In response to the situation involving Honduras, a U.S. State Department spokesman said that “We condemn the cynical use of potentially life-saving medical assistance to advance the narrow political agendas of certain donors,” adding that the U.S. “stands with Honduras as it confronts these challenging times.”

On May 20, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said that Honduras has received 30,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from its neighbor El Salvador instead of China, stressing that Taiwan-Honduras relations remain strong.

Despite all this, China has continued to politicize both the COVID-19 cooperation and vaccine supply, subjugating the global health under its own political agenda. As the global situation worsens, it is worrying that China could further reduce Taiwan’s international space through its “vaccine war” with Taiwan.

[1] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/honduran-president-diplomatic-shift-says-he-may-open-china-office-2021-05-12/
[2] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/us-condemns-political-use-vaccines-after-china-taiwan-tussle-2021-05-13/
[3] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202105200022

National Interest: Congress Could Authorize a “War Reserve Stocks for Allies Program” in Taiwan, just like in Israel

In his May 15 article “How America Can Help Taiwan Defend Itself” in the National Interest, Eric Lee writes: “For its part, Congress could authorize a War Reserve Stocks for Allies program, allowing the U.S. military to store war reserve stocks in Taiwan, something it already does in Israel, another small democracy that has contended with the threat of invasion since its inception. Such a program would directly complement the ODC. Prepositioned stockpiles of munitions, spare parts, and other items would help Taiwan address shortages and procurement challenges for key defense equipment.”

Eric Lee concludes: “As it currently stands, U.S.-Taiwan security cooperation is woefully inadequate to meet the looming Chinese invasion threat. A fully implemented Overall Defense Concept would revolutionize Taiwan’s warfighting capabilities and advance American interests. The Taiwan Strait could soon become a theater of conflict. The United States and Taiwan would do well to shape that battle space together.”

FAPA President Minze Chien adds: “We understand that in 1979, the U.S. had several thousand tons of POL [petrol, oil, lubricants] for ready war reserve in Taiwan, and after several years, in the 1980s the U.S. turned it over at no cost to Taiwan’s armed forces. During the first year of derecognition of Taiwan in favor of the PRC in 1979, the POL was in Taiwan under terms of the Mutual Defense Treaty.” 

Dr. Chien concludes: “Mr. Lee’s idea is fully consistent with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which is one of the cornerstones of U.S.-Taiwan relations. The TRA states that ‘the United States will make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.’”

Disclosure: Eric Lee was a 2018 FAPA summer intern