Taiwan may soon come under pressure from US President Barack Obama’s administration to raise its defense budget to 3 percent of GDP, a nominee for US assistant secretary of defense for Asia has said.
“Our priority should be to assist Taiwan in implementing an asymmetric and innovative defense strategy to deter aggression from China,” David Shear said before the US Senate Armed Services Committee this week, as it considered his nomination — expected to be approved — for what is in effect the Pentagon’s top policy official for Asia.
Shear, currently the US ambassador to Vietnam, said the US welcomed the rise of a peaceful China, but that the rapid growth of the Chinese military remained a concern.
He said China’s increasing defense spending was part of a long-term military modernization program that lacked transparency.
It is aimed at winning high-intensity, short-duration regional conflicts primarily focused on Taiwan, Shear said.
Relations between the US and China are often affected by Washington’s ties to Taiwan, Shear said, adding that if confirmed, he would “urge” Taiwan to increase its defense budget to 3 percent of GDP.
Insiders agreed later that such a statement would not have been made without approval in advance by the Obama administration.
At the same time, Shear said, the US should continue providing Taiwan with what it needed to maintain its defense.
He said Taiwan should be encouraged to develop a defense force capable of thwarting Beijing’s coercive efforts.
“We are paying particular attention to Chinese investments in technology development, as well as what they are fielding,” Shear said.
He said China had become more assertive in its claims of sovereignty, including its maritime claims in the South China Sea and the recent declaration of its air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
“The United States does not recognize and does not accept China’s ADIZ, and the announcement was provocative and raised tensions,” he said.
Former undersecretary of the US Navy Robert Work — who has been nominated for US deputy secretary of defense — told the committee that the “scale and character” of China’s military growth was “increasingly becoming a source of concern.”
US Senator John McCain has put a hold on Work’s nomination after Work said he had not read a critical government report last year on cost issues involving littoral combat ships.
“China’s near-term focus appears to be preparing for potential contingencies involving Taiwan, and deterring or denying effective third-party intervention in cross-strait conflict,” Work said.
He added that China is “devoting increasing attention and resources to conducting operations beyond Taiwan and China’s immediate periphery.”
He said the US should closely monitor the evolution of China’s armed forces and remain the preeminent military power in the Asia-Pacific.