The US’ policy is to help Taiwan focus on obtaining the capabilities it needs the most to repel a possible Chinese attack and not the weapon systems it is accustomed to having, a senior US official said on Friday.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan made the remark at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado after being asked if US President Joe Biden’s “porcupine strategy” has prepared Taiwan to defend itself “right now.”
“We are focused on those capabilities that are going to be most useful in the kinds of contingency we can expect, and not just rely on systems that... [Taiwan has] had around for a very long time,” he said.
Photo: Screen grab from the forum’s video footage
Asked whether Russia’s war in Ukraine could drain the US’ supply of arms to Taiwan, Sullivan said that there are “some overlaps” in the weapons systems required by the two situations.
However, a major contrast exists between Taiwan and Ukraine due to “the nature of the contingency or conflict [being] quite different from [a] land war in Europe and a potential contingency or conflict across the Taiwan Strait,” he said.
Washington’s continued support of the two countries would require increased investment, workforce development and an emphasis on bolstering the supply of key components and weapon systems, he said.
The Ukraine war has not prompted Beijing to fundamentally rethink its approach to Taiwan, but it has learned some concerning lessons about invading another country, he said.
However, Taiwan is also “working rapidly” to learn about mobilization, territorial defense and information warfare from Ukraine, he said.
Asked whether Biden’s statement in May that the US would defend Taiwan represents a shift in Washington’s policy, Sullivan said: “The president said in Japan that our policy has not changed, that we maintain a policy of strategic ambiguity, and we do.”
“Ambiguity has to be a feature of strategy in certain contexts, particularly very complex concepts,” he said. “I will stand to defend that idea conceptually.”
The US’ stance on its relationship with Taiwan continues to governed by the one China policy,” the Three Joint Communiques, the “six assurances” and the Taiwan Relations Act, he said.
Regarding competition between the US and China, Sullivan said that the US has become “well-positioned” to deal with that challenge, as the Biden administration has taken measures to bolster alliances in the Indo-Pacific region, Europe and the Middle East.
“The last thing I would say on [Beijing] ... is, it is never a good bet to bet against the US,” he said.
“If you look at the headwinds China is facing from the point of view of economic challenges, its continued effort to deal with the zero-COVID policy, I think there are real questions about what exactly its trajectory is going forward,” he added.
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