US lawmakers consider actions to increase support for Taiwan
- ‘Ukraine should serve as a wake-up call to get our act together and arm Taiwan to the teeth,’ one representative on the House Foreign Affairs Committee says
- Other suggestions include instituting Pentagon dialogues with Taipei and economic deterrence aimed at Beijing
US lawmakers discussed measures on Thursday that Washington should take to help defend Taiwan against any moves by mainland China’s military, including expedited weapon sales meant to arm Taipei “to the teeth”.
Suggestions made at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing included US-Taiwan defence dialogues similar to what the Pentagon conducts with Japan and South Korea. The hearing was called to examine the implications of Russia’s war on Ukraine on US policy in the Indo-Pacific.
“Ukraine should serve as a wake-up call to get our act together and arm Taiwan to the teeth,” Representative Steven Chabot of Ohio, the committee’s senior Republican, said.
Chabot contended that “this committee could authorise security assistance to bolster Taiwan’s defensive investments and get it the arms it needs”.
“We could also enact specific reforms to speed up the delivery of arms to Taiwan, including ones that [Taipei] has already bought and paid for,” Chabot said.
“We do not have regular sustained defence planning dialogues with Taipei, like we do with Japan and Korea and Nato. We should work with the Armed Services Committee to institute those immediately.”
The calls in the hearing to forgo what are often lengthy deliberations between Congress and the executive branch follow a series of visits by former and sitting American officials to the island, authorised by Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump.
“Excluding Taiwan from IPEF would significantly distort the regional and global economic architecture, run counter to US economic interests and allow the Chinese government to claim that the international community does not in fact support meaningful engagement with Taiwan,” the letter said.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shows the value of tangible economic support by the United States and like-minded allies and partners, and the same is true for Taiwan,” it added.
At the hearing Thursday, Representative Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican, called delays in delivering F-16 fighter jets, Abrams tanks, Paladin self-propelled missile launchers and other defensive missile systems to Taiwan “unacceptable if we are to deter the [Chinese Communist Party’s] growing aggression”.
Witnesses at the hearing – including Dan Blumenthal, director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, and Tanvi Madan, director of the India Project at the Brookings Institution – generally agreed with representatives’ assessment that Beijing’s refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion signals it may be inclined to take similar aggressive action against Taiwan.
The Quad failed initially “because the Chinese made such noises that these were aggressive moves by US … and if we continued to proceed down this path, they would pursue a path of military modernisation and become more aggressive”, Edel said.
“So Quad 1.0 fell apart and China chose to pursue military modernisation and become more aggressive in the region,” he added.
Representative Brad Sherman, a California Democrat, outlined other measures that Congress could take to deter China from attacking Taiwan, including immediate revocation of most-favoured nation trading status.
Another approach, he said, would be to simply impose across-the-board tariffs on Chinese goods. Tariffs now on Chinese imports amount to about 6 per cent on average, he added, which is “hardly much of an incentive for many companies to do anything other than sourcing China”.
Blumenthal, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, went furthest in arguing for a stronger defence of Taiwan by suggesting that a Chinese seizure of Taiwan would lead to events that would quickly unravel the US-led security networks in the Pacific.
“Japan becomes very hard to defend – if not indefensible – if China holds Taiwan,” he contended. “With an attack on Japan, you begin the unravelling of the alliance system in the Asia-Pacific, [which] is what has kept us safe since World War II.
“A forward defence of Taiwan is essentially a forward defence of the American homeland.”