2023-0302: Blinken Says Crisis in Taiwan Strait Is Not China’s “Internal Matter”; U.S. to Expand Troops in Taiwan; U.S. Warplane Transits Taiwan Strait

Blinken: Crisis in Taiwan Strait Is Not China’s “Internal Matter” Based on Its Sovereignty

On February 23, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the reason why the world is so worried about a crisis across the Taiwan Strait is because it is not China’s “internal matter” based on its sovereignty, but a matter of concern to the entire world, and a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would have catastrophic consequences for the global economy.

Blinken was invited to have a virtual conversation with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic. During the interview, when asked whether Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made it more likely or less likely that China would invade Taiwan in the near future, Blinken said that many countries in Europe and beyond have understood that “it could open a Pandora’s box” if such aggression is allowed to go forward with impunity.

Blinken asserted that with so many countries teaming up in response to Russia’s invasion, it has to be something that “China factors into its own thinking about [invading] Taiwan.” He stressed that the sanctions and export controls imposed on Russia are “doing serious damage” and the effects will only continue to accumulate. And he said China will also need to weigh the “huge reputational costs” Russia has suffered as a result of the invasion.

Secretary Blinken then emphasized that one important reason why the world is so concerned about a crisis across the Taiwan Strait is that “this is not an internal matter, as China would have it, based on its sovereignty.” Rather, it is “a matter of concern to quite literally the entire world.”

He noted that 50% of commercial container traffic passes through the Taiwan Strait every day. He also highlighted that a big majority of the semiconductors that the world needs for a broad spectrum of electronic devices are produced in Taiwan.

Blinken argued that if there were a crisis in Taiwan as a result of China’s aggression, it would have “disastrous consequences for the world economy and for countries around the world.” He then concluded, “that’s a message too that Beijing is hearing increasingly.”

[1] The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2023/02/antony-blinken-ukraine-jeffrey-goldberg-zelensky/673188/
[2] Taiwan News: https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4820095

White House Reiterates Support for Taiwan Amid “Expansion of U.S. Troops in Taiwan” Report — Expert: U.S. “Quasi Recognition” of Taiwan

On February 23, the White House reiterated its support for Taiwan in response to a report that the Pentagon will expand the number of U.S. troops in Taiwan to help training Taiwanese forces. The reported plan also suggests the U.S. “quasi-recognition” of Taiwan, a Taiwanese military expert said.

“Our support for and defense relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said when asked about the report. 

“Our commitment to Taiwan contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region,” she added.

On the decision to send more U.S. troops to Taiwan, however, Jean-Pierre said questions on specific troop numbers should be referred to the U.S. Department of Defense, which had yet to respond to the report as of February 23 night time.

Earlier that day, a Wall Street Journal report said that the U.S. is set to markedly increase the number of troops deployed to Taiwan to bolster a training program for Taiwan’s military amid growing threats from China.

“The U.S. plans to deploy between 100 and 200 troops to the island in the coming months, up from roughly 30 there a year ago,” the report said, citing U.S. officials.

Asked to comment on the report, Shen Ming-shih, a Taiwanese military expert, said the planned increase of U.S. troops in Taiwan, if true, is the result of Taiwan procuring more weapons from the U.S. in recent years, since all U.S. arms sales packages come with training programs.

The reported plan, along with recent reports of an unannounced visit to Taiwan by Michael Chase, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, also suggest the U.S.’ “quasi-recognition” of Taiwan’s sovereignty and international standing, Shen said.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202302240006
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2023/02/25/2003795000
[3] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202302240018

U.S. Naval Aircraft Makes Rare Transit of Taiwan Strait

On February 27, a U.S. naval aircraft made a rare transit through the Taiwan Strait, a flight the U.S. Navy said showed Washington’s “commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific” region.

The U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon transited the Taiwan Strait in international airspace, according to a statement released by the U.S. 7th Fleet.

“By operating within the Taiwan Strait in accordance with international law, the United States upholds the navigational rights and freedoms of all nations,” it said. “The aircraft’s transit of the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) also confirmed the aircraft’s passage, saying that Taiwan’s military was on top of the situation as a U.S. military aircraft flew northwards in the Taiwan Strait on February 27 and that it did not see anything out of the ordinary.

U.S. warships have been making routine, almost monthly, passages through the waterway separating Taiwan and China over the past three years as tensions across the Taiwan Strait have escalated, but it is rare for a U.S. warplane to do so.

The last time a U.S. warplane, also a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon, flew over the waterway was on June 24 last year, in 2022, a day after China sent 29 planes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) — at that point the third-highest daily number since the start of last year.

The P-8 Poseidon operates in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) roles.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202302270012
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2023/02/28/2003795168