0715: Bolster U.S.-Taiwan Military Ties, Japan Clears Stance, Del Toro Statement

Five Recommended Measures to Bolster U.S.-Taiwan Military Ties

In his recent Op-Ed, FAPA intern Brandon Chen recommends that the U.S. enact the following five measures to bolster U.S.-Taiwan military ties and cooperation to counter China’s increasing aggression more effectively.

“Strategic clarity” on U.S. military support for Taiwan if China attacks should replace the outdated policy of strategic ambiguity. China’s heightened aggression and increased military capabilities have shifted the balance of power in its favor, necessitating a rebalancing for the U.S./Taiwan side. Strategic clarity could enhance deterrence against China and increase Taiwanese willingness to fight, making the Taiwan Strait safer and more stable.

Taiwan’s participation in the “Rim of the Pacific” (RIMPAC) military exercise could benefit the U.S., Taiwan, and other Pacific partners by enhancing maritime cooperation and sharing naval strategy. Taiwan’s past presence at the Pacific Amphibious Leaders Symposium offers a strong precedent for such participation that provides significant defense and humanitarian crisis training benefits.

A “War Reserve Stocks for Allies” program to store U.S. munitions and military equipment in Taiwan for ready use by the U.S. and/or Taiwan military (only if, with expressed DoD permission) could help bridge the gap between an initial Chinese attack and potentially weeks-later arrival of U.S. forces. The preferred stockpile would be asymmetric systems that could significantly increase deterrence against China and would be highly effective in the context of a cross-Strait conflict.

“Military exchanges,” especially at high levels, are an effective and pragmatic means to strengthen U.S.-Taiwan security ties and military communication that would be vital should a crisis occur. Creative forms of exchange, like having the Taiwanese Minister of Defense testify before Congress, should also be considered.

“Navy visits to Kaohsiung” would allow the U.S. and Taiwanese fleet planners to increase engagement with each other and demonstrate the U.S. commitments to Pacific allies that share American values of free navigation and democracy. Strategically placed along the Maritime Silk Road with great geographic opportunities, Kaohsiung (the largest port in Taiwan) should replace Hong Kong and become a port of call for the U.S. Navy.

[1] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2021/07/02/2003760153

Japan Takes Clear Stance on Taiwan Issue – First Time

For the first time, Japan mentioned the importance of maintaining stability around Taiwan in its annual defense report. A conflict in the Taiwan Strait would present one of the biggest challenges to Japan’s security, according to the “Defense of Japan 2021” white paper released on July 13. As Taiwanese scholars said, the move shows Tokyo is now taking a clear stance over the Taiwan issue.

“Stabilizing the situation surrounding Taiwan is important for Japan’s security and the stability of the international community,” the white paper says. Therefore, Japan must “pay close attention to the situation [in the Taiwan Strait] with a sense of crisis more than ever before.”

Should an armed clash break out in the strait, Japan likely would need to protect U.S. warships carrying Japanese evacuees from the region and defend American bases against missile attacks under the principle of collective self-defense. Members of the Japanese government and ruling Liberal Democratic Party increasingly see a crisis involving Taiwan as a crisis for Japan.

The paper points out that China has further intensified military activities around Taiwan by continually sending military aircraft into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. It also notes that the overall military balance between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait is tilting in China’s favor, and the gap appears to be growing year by year.

Since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took office in late August last year, Japan has taken a clearer stance on the Taiwan issue, due to a change of environment in the region as well as its relationship with the U.S. and closer ties with Taiwan.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202107130023
[2] Nikkei Asia: https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Indo-Pacific/Japan-sees-Taiwan-clash-as-serious-threat-to-its-security

U.S. Navy Secretary Nominee: “It Is Incredibly Important to Defend Taiwan in Every Way Possible”

Carlos Del Toro, President Biden’s nominee to be Navy secretary, pledged on July 13 to be “exclusively” focused on China’s threat if he is confirmed.

“It’s incredibly important to defend Taiwan in every way possible,” Del Toro told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing. “It takes a holistic view of our national commitment to Taiwan. We should be focused on providing Taiwan with as much self-defensive measures as humanly possible.”

“And if confirmed to the Navy, I am going to be exclusively focused on the China threat and exclusively focused in moving our maritime strategy forward in order to protect Taiwan and all of our national security interests in the Indo-Pacific theater,” he added.

Del Toro’s comments came in response to questions from Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) on recent war games that suggested the United States would struggle to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. Del Toro stressed that he has not been privy to recent, classified war games, but vowed to “dive into that immediately” to “better understand the threat and what we need to do to match that threat.”

Pressed later in the hearing by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) on whether it is “vital” for the United States to maintain the ability to defeat a Chinese takeover of Taiwan and whether the Navy should prioritize the possibility of a Chinese invasion of the island as it develops operational concepts, Del Toro replied “absolutely” to both questions.

[1] The Hill: https://thehill.com/policy/defense/562762-navy-secretary-nominee-pledges-to-be-exclusively-focused-on-the-china-threat