1104: Unilateral Changes to Taiwan Status Quo, U.S. Troops in Taiwan, “Arm Taiwan Act” Introduced, U.S. Vaccine Donations to Taiwan

Blinken Warns China Against Fueling Tensions and Unilaterally Changing Status Quo Across Taiwan Strait

On October 31, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Chinese counterpart that the United States opposes any actions by China that could further escalate tensions and unilaterally change the status quo across the Taiwan Strait.

During an hour-long meeting in Rome with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit, Blinken made it “crystal clear” that Washington opposes unilateral changes by Beijing to the status quo around Taiwan, a senior State Department official said.

Blinken also raised concerns about other Chinese actions “that undermine the international rules-based order and that run counter to our values and interests and those of our allies and partners, including actions related to human rights, Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong, the East and South China Seas,” the State Department said.

A recent increase in Chinese military intrusions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone is part of what Taiwan and the U.S. view as stepped-up military harassment and pressure against Taiwan by China.

Wang said it was misleading of the United States to blame China for a change in the status quo on Taiwan, saying it is U.S. “connivance” and “support” for pro-independence forces in Taiwan that are at fault, China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The U.S. has long followed a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan if China attacked, though President Joe Biden said on October 21 that it would come to Taiwan’s defense if necessary.

On October 31, when asked by CNN to comment on Biden’s recent remarks about defending Taiwan, Blinken reiterated that there has been “no change in our policy” toward Taiwan. “We want to make sure that no one takes any unilateral action that would disrupt the status quo with regard to Taiwan. That hasn’t changed,” Blinken emphasized.

“We’ve had a long-standing commitment” under the Taiwan Relations Act that Biden supported when he was a senator “to make sure that Taiwan has the means to defend itself,” Blinken said. “And we stand by that. The president does sit by that strongly,” he added.

Earlier on October 29, Sandra Oudkirk, the new director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), also said in her first news conference that there has been no change in U.S. policy toward Taiwan, adding that her country considered peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait central to the security and stability of the broader Indo-Pacific region and to the U.S.

[1] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/blinken-warns-china-against-unilateral-action-regarding-taiwan-2021-10-31/
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202111010005

President Tsai Confirms Presence of U.S. Troops in Taiwan, While Defense Chief Acknowledges Taiwan-U.S. Joint Marine Training in Guam

Recently, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen confirmed for the first time the presence of U.S. military trainers in Taiwan. Meanwhile, Taiwan’s military also confirmed that a group of Taiwanese marines have been sent to Guam for one-month training. The military also announced its plan to intensify the reservist training, starting next year.

International media had reported last year that the United States had been rotating a small number of U.S. Marines and Special Operations Forces to Taiwan to train its military, amid rising tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

In her interview with CNN on October 28, President Tsai Ing-wen became the first Taiwan President in decades to acknowledge the presence of U.S. troops on Taiwanese soil. However, she did not specify how many American service members were sent to Taiwan, saying only that the number was “not as many as people thought.”

Moreover, according to the Apple Daily’s report, Taiwan’s Marine Corps has recently sent a platoon of 40 marines for a month-long amphibious landing training at the U.S. military base in Guam to enhance their combat capabilities.

On November 2, when asked to comment on the report, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng confirmed that a group of Taiwanese marines have been sent to Guam for one-month training. Chiu said the program is one of a number of “long-standing” bilateral exchange projects between Taiwan and the U.S., without elaborating.

Also on November 2, Taiwan’s military announced its plan to extend the length of reservist training periods and training hours, hoping to improve the combat readiness of the country’s reserve forces. Starting next year on a trial basis, the plan comes as Taiwan has sought to bolster its defense capability amid increasing aggression from China.

Under the new plan, reservists will undergo two weeks of training rather than the current five to seven days, and they can be asked to train two years in a row rather than every other year. The military will also scale up reservist training by doubling the time spent on required combat training sessions, such as shooting rifles, to maintain basic combat skills.

[1] CNN: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/10/27/asia/tsai-ingwen-taiwan-china-interview-intl-hnk/index.html
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202111020011
[3] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202111020007

“Arm Taiwan Act” Introduced in Senate

On November 2, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) — a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee — introduced the “Arm Taiwan Act of 2021” (S.3131) that would “strengthen Taiwan’s defenses against a Chinese invasion” through training, equipment and other means of support provided by the U.S.

Taiwan is facing growing intimidation from Beijing and the threat of a Chinese invasion is “expected to reach especially dangerous levels by the latter half of the 2020s,” the proposed bill says.

The Arm Taiwan Act says that Taiwan should speed up its deployment of cost-effective and resilient asymmetric defense capabilities to defend itself effectively.  It tasks the U.S. Secretary of Defense to form the “Taiwan Security Assistance Initiative” to help Taiwan achieve this goal.

Under the bill, the U.S. would allocate US$3 billion annually for such an initiative from 2023 through 2027 to provide assistance to Taiwan’s government, such as equipment, training and other support. Such assistance would be based on Taiwan demonstrating its own commitment to and progress in building a credible asymmetric defense that matches the U.S. efforts, it says.

The proposed bill’s annual budget cannot be allocated unless Taiwan invests an equivalent amount in asymmetric defense capabilities during the same period, the bill said, specifying that Taiwan should commit to spend at least 3 percent of GDP on defense from 2023 to 2027.

Taiwan currently spends about 2.36 percent of GDP on defense, up from 1.84 percent in 2018 and 2.16 percent in 2019, according to government figures.

“Taiwan is in grave danger, but the future is not yet written,” said Sen. Hawley. “The Arm Taiwan Act will ensure Taiwan has the asymmetric defenses it needs to deter a Chinese invasion — so long as Taiwan is prepared to make the difficult choices required to defend itself in the hard years ahead.”

“We should do everything in our power to help Taiwan urgently strengthen its defenses. If China’s recent actions have shown the world anything, it’s that Beijing will stop at nothing in its quest to dominate the Indo-Pacific and then the world. We must not let them succeed,” Hawley added.

Earlier this year, Hawley introduced the “Taiwan Defense Act of 2021” (S.2073), which would make it U.S. policy to maintain the ability to defeat a Chinese fait accompli against Taiwan.

[1] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2021/11/04/2003767289
[2] Senate Hawley’s Office: https://www.hawley.senate.gov/senator-hawley-continues-stand-taiwan-introducing-new-bill-help-nation-arm-itself

Second Batch of U.S.-donated Moderna Vaccines Arrives in Taiwan

On Monday, November 1, a second batch of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses donated by the United States arrived in Taiwan, with officials from both countries on hand to greet the shipment at Taoyuan International Airport.

Taiwan’s Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung and American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Director Sandra Oudkirk were both present for the arrival of a flight carrying 1.5 million doses manufactured by U.S.-based Moderna Inc.

A first batch of 2.5 million doses arrived in June, which, together with Monday’s donation, brings the total number of U.S.-donated Moderna doses in Taiwan to 4 million.

“Taiwan sincerely thanks again for the assistance from the U.S. government and its people at a time when the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines remains acute, which will greatly help Taiwan speed up its second-dose inoculation rate,” Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said in a statement.

Under a 2020 memorandum of understanding (MOU) on health cooperation signed by Taiwan and the U.S., both countries will continue to deepen their collaboration in the field to jointly combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the CECC said.

Meanwhile, AIT, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan, said in a statement that the United States partners closely with Taiwan on global health issues, and that collaboration has deepened throughout the pandemic. 

“Taiwan provided vital support to the United States in the earliest days of the pandemic, offering PPE and other life-saving materials. The American people remain grateful for Taiwan’s generosity and proud that we can reciprocate that kindness,” AIT said.

“For the last few years, AIT and Taiwan have described our relationship as ‘Real Friends, Real Progress,’ and this donation is a concrete example of our deep and broad ties in trade and investment, security cooperation, people-to-people exchange, and shared democratic values.”

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/society/202111010013