0818: Senator Markey Leads a Congressional Delegation to Taiwan; China’s “Overreacting” Drills Around Taiwan Should Be Challenged

Senator Markey Praises Taiwan for Showing Restraint During China’s Live-Fire Drills

On August 15, during a brief visit to Taiwan, U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) praised Taiwan for showing “restraint and discretion” in response to China’s week-long live-fire drills around Taiwan earlier this month, which were in retaliation to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit.

“At this moment of uncertainty, we must do everything we can to maintain peace and stability for Taiwan,” Markey said in a meeting with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen at the Presidential Office. 

“We have a moral obligation to do everything we can to prevent an unnecessary conflict, and Taiwan has demonstrated incredible restraint and discretion during challenging times,” he said.

Tsai thanked the U.S. delegation for traveling to Taiwan “at a special critical time to express your friendship toward the country” and added that “we are doing everything we can to let the world know that Taiwan is determined to safeguard our stability and the status quo of the Taiwan Strait.”

Tsai also thanked Markey for voting for the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA) in 1979 and helping Taiwan secure COVID-19 vaccines last year.

After meeting with Tsai, Markey and House members John Garamendi (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Don Beyer (D-VA) and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-AS), had lunch with Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu and met with Taiwanese lawmakers on the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers who participated the meeting said the U.S. delegation asked Taiwanese lawmakers whether Washington should stick to its decades-long policy of “strategic ambiguity” toward Taiwan.

“Our lawmakers focused on . . . the U.S.’ security pledges to Taiwan,” DPP Legislator Lo Chih-cheng said. “Our hope is that the U.S. will move to a position of strategic clarity.”

Since formally recognizing the People’s Republic of China, the United States has intentionally maintained a stance characterized as “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would come to Taiwan’s defense in the event of an attack by China.

In recent years, however, some experts and former U.S. officials, including former State Secretary Mike Pompeo and ex-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, have argued that Washington should move away from “strategic ambiguity” to “strategic clarity” to more effectively deter a potential Chinese invasion.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202208150021
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/08/16/2003783597

China’s “Overreacting” Drills Around Taiwan Should Be Challenged: U.S. Officials

On August 15, Washington said that U.S. members of Congress would continue to visit Taiwan, while condemning China’s restart of live-fire exercises around Taiwan as an “overreaction” amid a visit to Taiwan by U.S. lawmakers.

China conducted drills at sea and in the air around Taiwan on August 15, while a five-member U.S. Congressional delegation led by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) was in Taiwan on the last day of their 21-hour visit, which China described as an infringement of its sovereignty.

As of 5 p.m. that day, China had deployed 30 warplanes and 5 military vessels in areas around Taiwan, and 15 of the aircraft had crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said.

For decades, the Taiwan Strait’s median line was observed as an unofficial border between Taiwan and China, but Beijing has been breaching that line over the past two years, which analysts have interpreted as a more aggressive Chinese approach to the Taiwan issue.

Asked to comment on China’s response to Markey’s visit at a news briefing on August 15, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said that any response to a peaceful visit “that entails bellicose rhetoric or military maneuvers or provocative actions is totally unnecessary and an absolute overreaction.”

Members of the U.S. Congress have visited Taiwan for decades, with about 10 or more Congressional delegations having visited Taiwan this year alone, and they would continue to do so, Price said.

The U.S. has taken measured and responsible steps in response to China’s maneuvers so as not to escalate the situation in the Taiwan Strait, Price said, but “we won’t be deterred from flying, from sailing, from operating in the region in accordance with international law.”

U.S. President Joe Biden directed on August 12 that the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, operating in the Philippines, remain on station longer and announced that additional steps would be forthcoming in support of Taiwan, Price said.

Meanwhile, on August 16, U.S. Seventh Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Karl Thomas called China’s decision to fire missiles over Taiwan a “gorilla in the room” that must be challenged.

“It’s very important that we contest this type of thing,” Thomas told reporters. “If we just allow that to happen, and we don’t contest that, that’ll be the next norm.”

Thomas compared the threats against Taiwan to the South China Sea where Beijing spent years constructing military bases and facilities on a series of contested atolls, which it has denied doing.

“If you don’t challenge it … all of a sudden it can become just like the islands in the South China Sea [that] have now become [Chinese] military outposts,” he said. “They now are full-functioning military outposts that have missiles on them, large runways, hangars, radars, listening posts.”

On August 16, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said that China’s latest live-fire military exercises would further destabilize regional peace and disrupt one of the busiest air and shipping routes in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Taiwan strongly condemns China’s extremely irresponsible behavior” and democratic countries around the world should also all condemn China’s “ridiculous” and “barbaric” actions, the MOFA added.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202208160006
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2022/08/17/2003783662
[3] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202208160013