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Politics & Security

EDITORIAL | Passage of Taiwan Policy Act a Test of Biden's Defense Commitment 

The bill seeks to strengthen Taiwan's defense capabilities to suppress China's hostility, but some within the Biden government express reservations about it.

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US President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

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On September 18, United States President Joe Biden stated clearly on an American TV program that US forces would defend Taiwan if it was attacked by the Chinese.

Biden had expressed the same view repeatedly, including during his visit to Japan in May, when he made it clear that the US would become militarily involved to defend Taiwan in a conflict "if it comes to that."

In fact, with Chinese backlash in mind, it has become the norm for each of Biden's statements to be followed by a clarification by members of his administration, reiterating that there has been "no change" in US policy toward Taiwan. That includes the "strategic ambiguity" maintained by successive American administrations in dealing with tensions between Taiwan and mainland China.

This time, the US government took the same position but went one step further. Kurt Campbell, who serves as Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs, said that Biden's remarks "speak for themselves." Moreover, he affirmed that the US military deployment to defend Taiwan was the consensus of this administration.

China televises the firing of ballistic missiles into "training" areas around Taiwan and in Japan's EEZ. August 4, 2022. Photo from Weibo.

China's Relentless Aggression

China responded that "the United States has seriously violated its important promise not to support 'Taiwan independence'" and expressed "intense dissatisfaction."

However, the goal of successive US administrations has been peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. China is the one that should stop its military intimidation, which has been further sharpened following House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan. All that is needed is for China not to use its military might in an attempt to change the status quo through force.

To suppress China's military adventurism toward Taiwan, the US must show a firm willingness to do what it says in defending Taiwan, and enhance deterrence without being intimidated by China's threats.

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The United States' willingness to arm Taiwan is a welcome move. On September 2, the Biden administration approved a new package of weapons sales to Taiwan. This one includes Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and is worth a total of $1.1 billion USD (about ¥150 billion JPY). 

The deal will be the fifth arms transfer from the United States this year. Japan should join the US in stepping up its efforts to respond to a Taiwan contingency.

Military personnel stand next to Harpoon A-84, anti-ship missiles and AIM-120 and AIM-9 air-to-air missiles during a weapon loading drill on August 17, 2022, to show Taiwan's ability to resist Chinese pressure. (AP Photo/Johnson Lai)

Strengthening Resolve

Meanwhile, the US Congress is debating a "Taiwan Policy Act of 2022" to strengthen US-Taiwan relations. The bill includes giving $6.5 billion USD (about ¥930 billion JPY) over five years to strengthen Taiwan's defense, as well as treating "Taiwan on par with major allies who are not members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)" and "supporting Taiwan's membership in international organizations."

Within the Biden administration there are some who have expressed reservations about the proposed bill, suggesting that some provisions may be inconsistent with the United States' "One China" policy. However, we hope that Mr Biden expresses his support for the bill and pushes for its passage as proof of his firm commitment to Taiwan's defense.

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(Read the editorial in Japanese at this link.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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