The US aims to expand its involvement in East Asia amid concerns that China may use its growing military clout to coerce its neighbors or move against Taiwan, US military officials told Congress on Wednesday.
The officials also promised to provide Taiwan with weapons to protect itself from a possible Chinese attack, despite Beijing’s warning that such sales are meddling and could lead to conflict.
Speaking to US lawmakers at a congressional hearing, they said that China was boosting preparations for a short, intense fight against Taiwan. Its military buildup, which includes more than 1,000 ballistic missiles deployed opposite Taiwan, is in stark contrast to the improved ties between the rivals since the March 2008 election of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
The comments come as the US prepares for an expected announcement of arms sales for Taiwan and follows China’s announcement on Monday that its military intercepted a missile in mid-flight in a test of new technology.
The commander of US forces in the Pacific, Admiral Robert Willard, said that Beijing’s military advancements had worsened the already heavy combat imbalance between China and Taiwan.
Willard told lawmakers that the US military was trying to reconcile China’s claims that its forces are defensive with a military capability that is growing more powerful and outward-looking.
That “can only occur through continuous, frank conversations and a strong and mature military-to-military relationship — a relationship that does not yet exist with the People’s Liberation Army,” Willard said, referring to China’s army.
US-Chinese military ties are only just now improving after Beijing cut contact following the announcement by the administration of then US president George W. Bush in 2008 of a US$6.5 billion arms sale to Taiwan.
The upcoming arms sales to Taiwan will test whether the efforts of the administration of US President Barack Obama to establish greater trust with China’s leaders will keep Beijing from cutting military ties in retaliation.
The US officials also urged China to be more open about its growing military and its intentions.
Willard said China was seeking to deploy its first aircraft carrier, an important way to project power far beyond its shores. China purchased an unfinished former Soviet Kuznetsov class aircraft carrier in 1998 and began renovations in 2002.
“I expect this carrier to become operational around 2012,” Willard said.
US Assistant Secretary of Defense Wallace Gregson said some aspects of China’s military could restrict US access to the region or allow China to attack or coerce its neighbors.
“China’s growing capabilities also entail greater responsibility,” Gregson said.
He said the US saw risks that China might “one day calculate it has reached the tipping point in the Taiwan Strait and issue an ultimatum.”
The Obama administration needs to make sure China clearly understands US interests and does not challenge them, Gregson said.
“China can and should do more” to help Washington address crises in North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and other global hotspots, he said.
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
CHINESE FIGHTERS: Beijing marked the US Cabinet member’s visit by briefly sending two warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait yesterday morning President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday met with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in the highest-level official meeting between the two nations since 1979. “It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from [US] President [Donald] Trump to Taiwan,” Azar said during the open portion of his courtesy call to the Presidential Office, which was streamed live online before Tsai and Azar held a closed-door meeting. “Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent,
‘CROSS-STRAIT CONSIDERATIONS’: Groups said that the Ministry of Education’s policies excluded Chinese and students should not be blocked over political issues The Taiwan International Student Movement yesterday said it would protest today outside the Ministry of Education in Taipei against a policy that excludes some Chinese students from returning to Taiwan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Since June 17, the ministry has allowed foreign students from 19 “low risk” and “medium-low risk” countries and regions to enter Taiwan. On July 22, it announced that it was relaxing restrictions to include students from all countries and regions who are graduating this semester and on Wednesday it further expanded entry to students enrolled in degree programs. A letter sent by the ministry on Wednesday to universities did
PARTNERSHIP AND LEARNING: A Princeton University health policy researcher said that the nation would be a ‘treasure trove’ of information for the US health chief US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Friday said he wants to learn about Taiwan’s “incredibly effective” response to COVID-19, even though the nation did things that the US has fumbled, such as having a unified strategy and citizens willing to wear masks. Azar leads a US delegation arriving today for a three-day visit to Taiwan. They are to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and health system leaders, and Azar is to give a speech to public health graduates. “The message of this trip is about Taiwan,” Azar said in an interview, deflecting a question about China.