A bipartisan U.S. delegation to Taiwan concluded that China’s saber-rattling efforts should only inspire Washington to firm up its commitment to the island nation.
“These are intimidation tactics and saber-rattling, in my judgment, only firm up our resolve against the Chinese Communist Party. It has no deterrent effect on us,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairperson Michael McCaul, R-Texas, told Fox News. “In fact, I think it galvanizes the United States’ support for Taiwan.”
The delegation visited the island following Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California last week. China responded to the meeting with a series of military drills, deploying jets and warships for three days of “combat readiness” drills around Taiwan.
A total of eight warships and 42 planes were detected near the border within the Strait of Taiwan that demarcates the territory between China and the self-governed island. At least half of the military vessels darted right along the line of separation itself.
The delegation that visited the island this week included Rep. French Hill, R-Ariz., Rep. Michael Lawler, R-N.Y., Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif., Rep. Young Kim, R-Calif., Rep. Nathaniel Moran, R-Texas, Rep. Guy Reschenthaler, R-Pa., and Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-Pa.
McCaul revealed during a closing press conference that the group had discussed weapon sales, stressing that the U.S. backs deterrence policies. He noted that a combination of training, military exercises and intelligence sharing remain central to those efforts.
“We talked about a lot of very constructive ways of deterring, including economic,” McCaul said. “We talked about several military scenarios, including a blockade, [and] how they would respond to that.”
“Overall, know deterrence is key,” he added. “We don’t want war. We want peace and deterrence and peace through strength the accomplishes that.”
McCaul also raised concerns about Beijing interfering in Taiwan’s next presidential election, as “it’ll be a lot easier for them to influence an election without a shot fired than it would be to go to war.”
Taiwan’s role as the most significant producer of semiconductor chips in the world makes it a chief priority to maintain the island’s independence.
“I would argue freedom and democracy is worth supporting Taiwan over, but if that doesn’t persuade people, 90% of the advanced semiconductor capabilities for the world in manufacturing exist right here in Taiwan,” McCaul said.
“If that is compromised in any way – it’s a strategic asset – a national security asset, [and] if that is taken by invasion or it’s broken, it will send this globe into a world of hurt and a global depression.”
Some members of the delegation acknowledged the difficulty in firming up alliances in the region, as Beijing can interpret such actions as aggressive and may respond with escalatory measures. The delegation visited South Korea and Japan prior to arriving in Taiwan.
“I think it’s very difficult to ask countries in Asia to be verbally out there saying, ‘This is what we do’ [in the event of an invasion],” Bera said of the visits.
“But if you think about the two countries we visited prior to coming to Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, they’ve both experienced economic retaliation in South Korea for the deployment of THAAD batteries in Japan in the past getting their supplies of critical rare earth elements getting cut off,” Bera added.
Hill argued that despite military drills and economic actions, these are “the earliest days” of any conflict, but pointed to Hong Kong and Ukraine as “a wake-up call” as to what could happen.
“You have, for the first time, an Indo-Pacific strategy in Korea, a national security strategy,” Hill said. “They’ve not had that before. They’ve been concerned principally only about North Korea and the North Asia region, but in that Indo-Pacific regional national security strategy, [there’s] willingness to participate.”
“And if you don’t like inflation now, wait until you have a — 60% of global trade passes through the strait between here, but 80 miles between China and Taiwan, it’s not just a military issue,” Hill added. “It’s a way-of-life issue in the United States. And that’s why deterrence is so important.”