Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the United States, said Tuesday that Ukraine’s success in defending itself against Russia’s invasion, with the help of the United States and other nations, is important for deterring China from trying to invade Taiwan, a democratic island that the Chinese government considers part of its territory.
“I think pushing back on aggression is the key message that will help to deter any consideration or miscalculation that an invasion can be conducted unpunished, without costs, in a rapid way,” Ms. Hsiao told reporters over a breakfast organized by The Christian Science Monitor. “We must ensure that anyone contemplating the possibility of an invasion understands that, and that is why Ukraine’s success in defending against aggression is so important also for Taiwan.”
Why It Matters: Some Republicans want to prioritize aid to Taiwan.
Ms. Hsiao’s statement rebuts arguments by a few Republican lawmakers and former U.S. officials that the United States should decrease weapons aid to Ukraine in order to prioritize building up Taiwan’s defense capabilities and U.S. military resources aimed at countering China. Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, is making this argument, as is Elbridge Colby, a Pentagon official in the Trump administration who has advised Mr. Hawley.
They say some of the same missile and weapons systems that Taiwan needs for preventing a potential Chinese invasion — including Javelins, Stingers and Patriots — are being sent to Ukraine. The fastest way for the weapons to reach partner nations is through a process known as the presidential drawdown authority, which allows the U.S. government to transfer arms from the Pentagon’s stockpiles. But those reserves have been depleted by aid to Ukraine.
Those current and former Republican officials also say Taiwan should take priority in receiving weapons that roll off production lines years in the future. Ms. Hsiao said she is not concerned about that since Taiwan’s weapons orders are on a separate track from those of other governments.
Background: China wants Taiwan under its rule, eventually.
Ms. Hsiao’s main big-picture point is that China is watching Russia’s invasion of Ukraine closely and drawing lessons from it. The greater the cost to Russia, the less likely it is that China will take similar steps, the thinking goes.
“Our best hope is that Beijing also takes the lesson that aggression will not succeed, that there will be tremendous international pushback against aggression,” she said.
China is Russia’s most powerful partner, and the two nations declared their relationship had “no limits” before President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Xi Jinping, the leader of China, has continued to show support for Mr. Putin, but so far has refrained from giving weapons aid to Russia, U.S. officials say. This shows that China is being cautious about running afoul of sanctions imposed on Russia by the United States and other nations.
Like Chinese leaders before him, Mr. Xi has asserted that Taiwan must eventually come under the rule of China. But senior Biden administration officials say there is no intelligence indicating Mr. Xi has explicitly laid out a timeline for this. Ms. Hsiao said Taiwan does not have evidence of a specific timeline either.
What’s Next: Taiwan is ramping up its own preparedness.
The U.S. government is determined to turn Taiwan into a “porcupine,” an entity bristling with weapons that would be too painful to attack. Ms. Hsiao said Taiwan is aware of the need to build up military deterrence while assuring China it wants to maintain the status quo rather than declaring independence. She noted that Taiwan is increasing the length of its compulsory military service for men from four months to one year; is working with the United States to improve military training; and is creating the capability to service F-16 fighter jets on its own.
Edward Wong is a diplomatic correspondent who has reported for The Times for more than 24 years from New York, Baghdad, Beijing and Washington. He was on a team of Pulitzer Prize finalists for Iraq War coverage. @ewong
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