The Pentagon on Tuesday backed Taiwan against what it said were increased efforts by China to “intimidate and pressure” the island using its military.
This month, Taiwan has detected 153 People’s Liberation Army aircraft on training missions in the international airspace about 100 to 150 miles southwest of the island. Taipei’s view of the flights as pointed political signals—and a real threat—was confirmed on Wednesday when a Chinese official said the military activities targeted the Taiwanese government and its foreign backers.
Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby said the PLA activities conducted in the vicinity of Taiwan, as well as in the East and South China seas, are “destabilizing and only increase the risk of miscalculation.”
“Our support for and defense relationship with Taiwan remains aligned against the current threat posed by the People’s Republic of China,” Kirby said, using China’s formal name, “and we urge Beijing to honor its commitment to the peaceful resolution of cross-strait differences.”
His remarks mean democratic Taiwan has received the Biden administration’s wide support from the State Department, White House and now the Pentagon. Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China’s actions were “potentially a source of instability, not stability.”
Kirby, who noted the U.S.’s “one China” policy doesn’t include an official position on sovereignty over Taiwan, said the U.S. would continue to “assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability,” as prescribed by the Taiwan Relations Act.
The U.S.’s “one China” policy is distinct from Beijing’s oft-cited “one China” principle, which asserts absolute sovereignty over the island.
Also on Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price also reiterated the “rock-solid” American commitment to Taiwan. “We’ve also been very clear that we are committed to deepening our ties with Taiwan. We know that Taiwan is a leading democracy. It is a critical economic and security partner,” he added.
Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, has insisted on her country being granted political parity. She has urged Beijing to hold dialogue with Taiwan’s representatives without preconditions such as recognition of the “one China” principle. The Chinese leadership has so far refused, denying communication through established channels since her election in 2016.
In the meantime, Taipei has been watching a steady buildup of China’s military capabilities from across the Taiwan Strait. Ruling party lawmakers have struggled to raise the island’s defense spending above 2 percent of GDP, although an $8.5 billion special defense budget is currently under legislative review. The funds will help Taiwan mass-produce anti-ship and land attack cruise missiles over the next five years.
Last week, Taiwan’s defense minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, told parliamentarians that China’s armed forces would possess the capability to invade Taiwan at a minimal cost by 2025.
C-130H transport aircraft of Taiwan’s air force overfly Taiwan’s Presidential Office during Republic of China National Day celebrations on October 10, 2021.
Office of the President, Taiwan/Wang Yu Ching