The US would be more deeply involved in a war across the Taiwan Strait than in Ukraine because of its commitments to Taipei under the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), National Security Bureau (NSB) Director-General Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) said yesterday, adding that the situation in Ukraine would deter China from military aggression.
Chen delivered a national security report to lawmakers on the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee behind closed doors, before responding to questions in an open session.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said that China has been watching the developments in Ukraine and asked whether Beijing would be bolder or more cautious regarding military aggression against Taiwan.
Chen said that China would be more cautious, because even though Washington has been avoiding direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict for fear of sparking a world war, “the US is helping through Common Data Link and other telecommunication systems, despite having no legal obligation similar to the TRA to help Ukraine.”
“Although some people say the TRA is the US’ domestic law ... it grants legal authorization for the US government to take action” in the event that a development occurs that requires its application, he said. “The current situation [in Ukraine] has given China much to think about, as the US has given much support to Ukraine, even without a law similar to the TRA.”
“Therefore, because of the TRA, we believe the US would be much more involved” in the event of a military conflict around Taiwan, he said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wen Yu-hsia (溫玉霞) said that US Indo-Pacific Commander Admiral John Aquilino has mentioned the possibility of China invading Taiwan, and asked Chen: “Are you denying that a war will eventually break out between China and Taiwan?”
“We know that Beijing has the intention of forcing unification on Taiwan, this is not a secret ... but the developments in Russia’s war on Ukraine has discouraged Beijing from such an undertaking,” Chen said. “The conflict in Ukraine has served as a warning to Beijing not to start a war.”
“While China chooses its moves, we are countering its actions. Taiwan is not a ‘defenseless chicken’ with nothing to do, as we are always strengthening our defenses,” he said. “China would not attack Taiwan while President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is in office... This is based on our understanding of China’s thinking.”
Asked by lawmakers how long the war in Ukraine would last, Chen said it depends on several key factors, such as whether Russia uses weapons of mass destruction.
“As the Ukrainian government has put up effective resistance, the war will be prolonged and could last six months or a year ... but it could end earlier if the US, China and other countries help negotiate” a solution, he said.
China has opposed Western sanctions against Russia, and has been trying to maintain regular trade and economic activities between the two nations, Chen said, adding that the Ukraine war could benefit China by making the Chinese yuan a more internationally acceptable currency.
“Russia has sought help from China to fight against the economic sanctions, asking Beijing to open up its foreign reserves, and to use the yuan instead of the euro and the US dollar in international exchanges, which conforms to China’s long-term plans to have the yuan replace the US dollar in international transactions,” he said.
Chen said the bureau is considering blacklisting Kaspersky Lab, a Russian anti-virus software firm, following the US’ lead.
Asked whether Moscow would use nuclear weapons, Chen said: “Even if it is a 1 percent possibility, it would be a tragedy. Every country must work to prevent that from happening.”
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