Taiwan is being bullied by China and the US should do something about it, a US congressional committee was told on Wednesday.
“We need to help Taiwan avoid being coerced into making unfair concessions to mainland China,” said Patrick Cronin, the senior director of the Asia program at the Center for a New American Security.
Cronin, who had just returned from a visit to Taiwan, said it was being “squeezed” by China “more and more every day.”
Addressing a US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee hearing on “Rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific Region and Implications for US National Security,” Cronin said that Washington needed to accelerate an official review of the US-Japan defense guidelines.
“We need a common strategic approach to countering Chinese coercive diplomacy in the short term and countering Chinese anti-access aerial-denial capabilities in the long run,” he said.
US allies in Asia have been concerned that as China has become stronger, it has also become more assertive, said Michael Auslin, director of Japanese studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
“They’re concerned about their particular sets of territorial disputes and other issues in which they feel that there is little chance for each of them alone to resolve these on terms that would be most favorable to them,” Auslin said.
Over the past several years, there has been an increasing tendency for friends and allies in Asia to look to the US for backup and support, he said.
“In part, they do this because the administration has stated that it is rebalancing, it is re-engaging, it is back in Asia,” Auslin said.
“And yet, when we come down to the specifics that concern them and interest them, the US often takes a pass,” he said.
Auslin said that both Japan and the Philippines felt frustration at the lack of US support over territorial issues with China in the South and East China Seas.
While there was no fear of a major conflict breaking out soon, Auslin said that Asian nations feared that the environment in which they operated today — “the environment they know and understand” — was “slowly slipping away.”
“That is where the influence of the United States is most important — in stressing that we will not passively sit by while the security environment degrades for the worse and then raise the significant questions about stability, insecurity and the potential for conflict,” Auslin said.
“The administration needs to more clearly articulate the rationale behind the rebalance and its goals,” he said.
Admiral Gary Roughead, the former commander of the US Pacific fleet, said the US approach in rebalancing “must be strategic and not superficial.”
The admiral asked the committee to consider whether China was intending ultimately to become not only assertive, but aggressive.
“I think we should actually be very worried and should ask ourselves the question why is everyone who can afford it in the region buying more weapons?” Roughead said.