2024-0222: U.S. Calls for Peace Amid Taiwan-China Maritime Dispute; Rep. Gallagher Leads Delegation to Taiwan; U.S. Arms Sale to Taiwan

U.S. Calls for Peace Amid Taiwan-China Maritime Dispute

On February 20, the United States reiterated its commitment to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait amid a Taiwan-China dispute triggered by a boat chase by the Taiwanese Coast Guard in waters near Taiwan-held Kinmen Island that resulted in the death of two Chinese fishermen on February 14.

In a regional press call on February 20, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that Washington has been clear on its stance on maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Although he declined to comment specifically on the Kinmen incident occurred last week, he said that the U.S. is “against any kind of action, by any party, that undermines that peace and stability.”

On February 14, a Chinese speedboat was spotted trespassing in Taiwan’s “prohibited” waters within 1.1 nautical miles (2km) off the eastern coast of Kinmen. It fled after refusing the Taiwanese coast guard’s request to board the vessel, setting off a chase that led to the boat capsizing, with two Chinese fishermen drowning.

Taiwan and China have traded barbs over the legitimacy of Taiwan’s “restricted” and “prohibited” waters around the Kinmen coast, with China announcing on February 18 that it would enhance its maritime law enforcement capabilities and increase regular patrols in the region.

On February 19, the China Coast Guard (CCG) boarded a Kinmen sightseeing boat in the region by conducting a surprise inspection, and a CCG vessel entered “prohibited” waters off Kinmen’s coast before being driven away by Taiwan’s Coast Guard.

The Kinmen Islands have long been considered a potential flashpoint in Taiwan-China relations because they are located less than 10 kilometers from China’s southeastern coast.

At a separate press briefing on February 20, U.S. Department of State spokesman Matthew Miller said Washington is closely monitoring China’s actions, while it continues to “urge restraint and no unilateral change to the status quo.”

The U.S. also urged China to engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan to reduce the risk of miscalculation, Miller said.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) said that it has no intention to “directly intervene” in the ongoing maritime dispute with China to avoid escalating tensions.

The MND said the case that triggered the dispute is under the jurisdiction of Taiwan’s Coast Guard Administration (CGA) and is under investigation.

Taiwan’s military is keeping a close eye on the situation and would let the CGA do its job based on the principles of “no direct involvement, no escalating of tension,” it said.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/cross-strait/202402210007
[2] Taipei Times: https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2024/02/22/2003813894

Rep. Gallagher Leads U.S. Congressional Delegation to Taiwan, Praising “Rock-Solid” Partnership

Visiting U.S. Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), told Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen during a meeting in Taipei on February 22 that the visit of his delegation was to show bipartisan support from the U.S. Congress for Taiwan.

Gallagher arrived in Taiwan on early February 22 for a three-day visit. He leads a five-member Congressional delegation, including Ranking Member Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), and Reps. John Moolenaar (R-MI), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), and Seth Moulton (D-MA) ― all of whom are on the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Gallagher, a House member since 2017, has been the Chair of the House Select Committee on the CCP since its establishment in January 2023.

In a press release issued by the committee on February 21, Gallagher praised Taiwan’s ability to “not only survive, but thrive” as it shows the world “how to stand up to the CCP’s bullying.”

“The United States stands with Taiwan. By promoting deeper ties between our leaders and our economies we can enhance peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” he added.

“Today we come, as Democrats and Republicans, to show our bipartisan support for this partnership, which . . . is stronger and more rock-solid than ever,” Gallagher told Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen during a meeting in Taipei on February 22.

“Today, freedom is under attack from authoritarian aggression, and we need to be more vigilant than ever if we want to pass on this gift of freedom we have been given to the next generation,” he said, calling Tsai “a leader within the free world.”

Tsai thanked the U.S. for continuing to help Taiwan strengthen its self-defense capabilities and said she hoped to see more exchanges between the U.S. and Taiwan.

In a separate meeting, Vice President and President-elect Lai Ching-te said that facing increasing pressure from China, Taiwan will continue to enhance its self-defense.

In response, Gallagher said the United States will deepen its partnership with Taiwan as Lai assumes the presidency on May 20, adding that if China attempts to invade Taiwan, the effort would fail.

According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the visiting U.S. lawmakers will also meet Vice-President-elect Hsiao Bi-khim and join a banquet hosted by Foreign Minister Joseph Wu to discuss issues of mutual concerns and the latest situation in the Indo-Pacific region.

[1] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/us-lawmaker-who-chairs-china-committee-arrives-taiwan-2024-02-22/
[2] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202402220002

U.S. Approves Sale of Advanced Tactical Data Link System to Taiwan

The U.S. Department of State has approved the potential sale to Taiwan of about $75 million of advanced tactical data link system upgrade planning, the Pentagon said on February 21. It was the 13th approval of an arms sales package to Taiwan under U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration.

In a press release, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said the package would include Cross Domain Solutions (CDS), High Assurance devices, Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers, communications equipment, technical services, and other related elements of logistics and program support.

“The proposed sale will improve [Taiwan’s] ability to meet current and future threats by enhancing communications and network security, and providing infrastructure to allow the secure flow of tactical information,” the DSCA said.

The DSCA said it had notified the U.S. Congress of the potential sale. The notification does not indicate that a contract has been signed, and the principal contractors have yet to be determined.

In response, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) on February 22 welcomed Washington’s announcement of the latest arms sale.

Taiwan had requested to upgrade the Taiwanese military’s command and control system and intelligence surveillance system data links, to enhance the effectiveness of the existing common operational picture and establish military interoperability, the MND said.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) also expressed gratitude to the United States for fulfilling its security commitments to Taiwan in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances.

The arms sale shows that the Biden administration has placed great importance on Taiwan’s defense needs and strengthening its defense and deterrent capabilities, MOFA added.

[1] Focus Taiwan: https://focustaiwan.tw/politics/202402220007
[2] Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-state-dept-oks-potential-sale-military-gear-taiwan-pentagon-says-2024-02-22/