1112: Blinken on Defending Taiwan, New Pro-Taiwan Legislation, “Mystery” Congressional Delegation to Taiwan, Taiwan’s Defense Report

Blinken Says U.S. and Allies Would “Take Action” if China Attacks Taiwan

On November 10, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States and its allies would “take action” if China were to use force to alter the status quo over Taiwan, moving closer towards full “Strategic Clarity” over Taiwan’s defense.

At a forum hosted by the New York Times, Blinken was asked whether the U.S. would defend Taiwan if China attacked. He repeated Washington’s regular statements that the U.S. role is to make sure Taiwan has the means to defend itself, as is required under the Taiwan Relations Act. 

“At the same time, I think it’s fair to say that we’re not alone in this determination to make sure that we preserve peace and stability in that part of the world,” Blinken added.

“There are many countries, both in the region and beyond, that would see any unilateral action to use force to disrupt the status quo [across the Taiwan Strait] as a significant threat to peace and security,” Blinken said. “And they too would take action in the event that that happens.”

Blinken, however, did not specify what sort of action he was referring to.

Last month, President Joe Biden said the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense if China attacked, in an apparent departure from a long-held U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” on Taiwan. The White House, however, later said there was no change in policy toward Taiwan.

Last week, the Democratic chairman of the influential House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff (D-CA), urged the Biden administration to be “less ambiguous” about defending Taiwan from China’s attack. “I think probably less ambiguity is better than more ambiguity,” Schiff said, adding that “We need to be much clearer about our obligation to defend Taiwan.”

Blinken’s latest remarks on Taiwan’s defense came ahead of a planned virtual meeting between President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, which a source briefed on the matter told Reuters will be held as soon as next week.

[1] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/us-allies-would-take-action-if-taiwan-attacked-blinken-2021-11-10/
[2] Bloombergs: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-11-10/blinken-says-allies-would-take-action-if-china-attacks-taiwan
[3] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/china/leading-democrat-adam-schiff-urges-less-us-ambiguity-over-taiwan-defense-2021-11-03/

New Pro-Taiwan Legislation in U.S. Congress

Taiwan Deterrence Act
On November 4, Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Mitt Romney (R-UT), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) in introducing the “Taiwan Deterrence Act” (S.3192) to bolster deterrence across the Taiwan Strait and strengthen Taiwan’s ability to defend against Chinese aggression and coercion.

This legislation would authorize $2 billion a year for Taiwan in Foreign Military Financing, subject to Taiwan meeting certain conditions; amend the Arms Export Control Act to better facilitate arms transfers to Taiwan; and require an annual assessment on Taiwan’s efforts to advance a credible defense strategy vis-à-vis China. [1]

(Full text of S.3192)

U.S.-Taiwan Public Health Protection Act
On November 4, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) introduced the “U.S.-Taiwan Public Health Protection Act” (S.3201 & H.R.5870) to establish a U.S.-Taiwan Infectious Disease Monitoring Center within the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) to partner with Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) are co-sponsors of the bill.

The center would monitor infectious diseases originating in the region, engage in people-to-people contacts with medical and health officials in the region, and provide expertise on health threats to the U.S. and Taiwanese governments. The center will be staffed by U.S. government detailees, including at least three Health and Human Services (HHS) infectious disease experts and at least one staffer from other federal departments, and may employ local Taiwanese staff and employees of Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC). [2]

(Full text of S.3201 & H.R.5870)

A Bill on Interoperability with Taiwan
On November 4, Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Angus King (I-ME) introduced “A bill to express the sense of Congress on interoperability with Taiwan” (S.3178).

This legislation states that it is the sense of Congress that, consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances, the United States should seek to support the goals of — (1) improving asymmetric defense capabilities of Taiwan; (2) bolstering deterrence to preserve peace, security, and stability across the Taiwan Strait; and (3) deepening interoperability with Taiwan in defense capabilities.
 A Resolution to Support Lithuania-Taiwan Ties
On November 5, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Jim Risch (R-ID), and chair of the Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), introduced a resolution (S.Res.446) to support Lithuania’s efforts to strengthen its ties with Taiwan at a time when China has retaliated against Lithuania for allowing Taiwan to open a “Taiwanese Representative Office” in its capital city of Vilnius.

The resolution says it commends Lithuania for strengthening ties with Taiwan, recognizes the bold actions Lithuania has taken to highlight the malign actions of China, and encourages nations around the world to support Lithuania and confront Chinese coercion. [3]

(Full text of S.Res.446)

[1] Sen. Risch’s Press: https://www.foreign.senate.gov/press/ranking/release/risch-colleagues-introduce-bill-to-bolster-deterrence-in-taiwan-strait
[2] Sen. Cotton’s Press: https://www.cotton.senate.gov/news/press-releases/cotton-khanna-colleagues-lead-bipartisan-effort-to-support-taiwans-standing-in-global-health-community
[3] Sen. Risch’s Press: https://www.foreign.senate.gov/press/ranking/release/risch-shaheen-introduce-resolution-in-support-of-lithuanias-relationship-with-taiwan

“Mystery” Congressional Delegation Visits Taiwan via a U.S. Military Aircraft

A group of members of U.S. Congress arrived in Taiwan via a U.S. Navy C-40 transport plane on the evening of November 9. After their three-day “mystery” visit, they left Taiwan on November 11 and did not speak to waiting reporters at the airport.

According to media reports, the U.S. congressional delegation comprised four senators — John Cornyn (R-TX), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Mike Lee (R-UT) — and two representatives including Jake Ellzey (R-TX) and another unnamed member.

On November 10, the delegation visited Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen in the morning. The group then visited the Ministry of National Defense (MND) headquarters in the afternoon and were briefed on China’s recent military intimidations against Taiwan. Both offices, however, declined to comment on the delegation’s reported visits or its itinerary in Taiwan.

On November 11, the delegation visited the headquarters of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chipmaker. Later, they met with Hsinchu Mayor Lin Chih-chien. However, both TSMC and Hsinchu City government refused to comment on the delegation’s reported visits.

Shortly after the delegation’s arrival to Taiwan on November 9, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) confirmed the low-key visit but declined to give more details, citing the wishes of the American lawmakers. MOFA said the trip was arranged by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the de facto U.S. embassy in Taiwan.

On November 9, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby also confirmed to reporters that a U.S. congressional delegation had arrived in Taiwan, adding that such trips “are fairly routine,” and it is “not uncommon for them to be transported on U.S. military aircraft.” The latest visit was “the normal practice here, and in keeping with our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act,” Kirby said.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202111110022
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202111100008

Taiwan Releases National Defense Report and Warns of “Grave” Threat from China

On November 9, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) released the biennial national defense report in both Chinese and English, warning a “grave” military threat posed by its giant neighbor, China.

In the defense report, Taiwan’s military reported on its efforts over the past two years to reform the country’s armed forces and strengthen its ability to deter intensifying military coercions from China.

The report said the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has attempted to “unilaterally alter the international order of freedom and openness through the manipulation by gray zone activities” as the world is busy dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The PRC’s military preparations, realistic combat training and exercises, and intimidations and actions targeted at Taiwan are expected to be intensified, posing a grave threat to the security in the Taiwan Strait,” the report warned.

China’s so-called “gray zone” warfare is aimed at subduing Taiwan through exhaustion of Taiwan’s military. The tactic includes the near-daily incursions of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) planes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and military drills in the vicinity of the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Islands in the South China Sea.

China is also deploying other non-traditional threats to Taiwan, including cyber and cognitive warfare, which the report said is aimed at conquering Taiwan without an actual full-scale military conflict.

At the same time, China’s PLA is aiming to complete the modernization of its forces by 2035 to “obtain superiority in possible operations against Taiwan and viable capabilities to deny foreign forces, posing a grave challenge to our national security,” Taiwan’s defense ministry said.

“At present, the PLA is capable of performing local joint blockade against our critical harbors, airports, and outbound flight routes, to cut off our air and sea lines of communication and impact the flow of our military supplies and logistic resources,” the ministry warned.

While China views Taiwan as Chinese territory, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen says Taiwan is already an independent country and vows to defend its freedom and democracy.

Tsai’s administration has made bolstering Taiwan’s defense capabilities a priority, pledging to produce more domestically developed weapons, including submarines, and buying more equipment from the United States, the country’s most important arms supplier and international backer.

[1] Full Defense Report (English Version): https://www.mnd.gov.tw/NewUpload/%E6%AD%B7%E5%B9%B4%E5%9C%8B%E9%98%B2%E5%A0%B1%E5%91%8A%E6%9B%B8%E7%B6%B2%E9%A0%81%E5%B0%88%E5%8D%80/%E6%AD%B7%E5%B9%B4%E5%9C%8B%E9%98%B2%E5%A0%B1%E5%91%8A%E6%9B%B8%E5%B0%88%E5%8D%80.files/%E5%9C%8B%E9%98%B2%E5%A0%B1%E5%91%8A%E6%9B%B8-110/110%E5%B9%B4%E5%9C%8B%E9%98%B2%E5%A0%B1%E5%91%8A%E6%9B%B8-%E8%8B%B1%E6%96%87%E7%89%88.pdf
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202111090011
[3] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/business/aerospace-defense/taiwan-says-china-can-blockade-its-key-harbours-warns-grave-threat-2021-11-09/