– Mr President, I wanted to come down to talk about a topic that a number of Senators have been talking about and that a number of Senators have been focused on. That is the topic of Taiwan and potentially the defense of Taiwan and the support for Taiwan.
By Sen. Dan Sullivan
As this body knows, in 1979, the Senate passed a very important bill called the Taiwan Relations Act–a very bipartisan bill. From that time on, the Senate has played a very important oversight role in US relations with Taiwan, and it has always been very bipartisan.
Recently, a bipartisan codel, led by the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Menendez, with many other Senators–Senator Graham, Senator Portman, Senator Sasse–traveled to Taiwan. I just got an out-brief from some of those Senators–a very good meeting. I was part of a bipartisan codel about a year ago, with Senator Coons and Senator Duckworth, also to Taiwan.
So there is a long tradition in the US Senate, in a bipartisan way, with all of us working together, of addressing this question: To what degree should we be supporting and defending Taiwan against a very aggressive Chinese Communist Party, led by the dictator Xi Jinping? Why does it matter? Why should we all be working together, as we have done for decades here in the US Senate, Democrats and Republicans, to deter a military invasion of Taiwan?
What will be happening in the next few weeks I want to talk about because I am concerned about the direction of the Biden administration, and I think every Senator here should be concerned. So I am going to ask my colleagues to lift up their voices when they talk to the Biden administration on a topic I am going to mention here in a minute. But why does it matter? Well, this issue of the potential invasion of Taiwan could take place in a few years.
The INDOPACOM commander, a little over a year ago, in front of the Armed Services Committee, opined that the threat of an invasion of Taiwan by an aggressive Chinese Communist Party would manifest itself during this decade –“ in fact, in the next 6 years.” That was Admiral Davidson, former INDOPACOM commander, and that is not a lot of time.
Here is why I think it matters: Right now, Taiwan is on the frontline of freedom in Asia. It is not some peripheral sideshow; it is, in many ways, central to freedom in that part of the world like West Berlin was during the Cold War. A violent military takeover of Taiwan by the Chinese Communist Party would be a sea change in how the entire world is ordered. It would change the history of the 21st century in the way that the Guns of August of 1914 changed the 20th century.
Now, some see the defense of Taiwan and the support that is required from the United States because of the Taiwan Relations Act–again, led by this body–some see the defense and support of this island democracy as a luxury that we can’t afford in an age shaped by great power competition.
I actually believe–and I believe many Senators, Democrats and Republicans, believe the opposite–that a Taiwan under China’s control would decisively advance Beijing’s campaign to export its authoritarian model around the world; to separate the United States from our democratic allies; and it would certainly be part of Xi Jinping’s goal of excluding the United States from the INDOPACOM theater.
Taiwan–a thriving, prosperous Chinese democracy that holds free election and bounds its power by the rule of law–is central to the free world and its future.
By the way, if you are an American citizen, regardless of political party, you should take pride in the fact that this country–or this island democracy–is free because it wouldn’t have happened without the sacrifice and resources of the United States and our military, and that is a fact.
A few months ago, I gave a speech on this topic, and I talked about how, when you think of the defense of Taiwan and deterrence, which is what we all want–deterrence; nobody wants a war in the Taiwan Strait–there are really three layers of deterrence for the island of Taiwan.
The first is Taiwan’s ability to militarily defend itself, the so-called hedgehog approach or porcupine approach. Right here, they are defending themselves in the way the Ukrainians are defending themselves. Senator Roger Wicker had a very good op-ed in the Wall Street Journal just today on that very topic. We need to make sure Taiwan has that capability–it is in the Taiwan Relations Act that we have that responsibility–so that it can defend itself, and they are undertaking the right approach with regard to the military weapons they are buying from the United States and other places.
The second level of deterrence that you see here on this chart would be America’s capability to defend Taiwan militarily should the President of the United States decide to do so if there is an invasion by the Chinese Communist Party. Over several decades, through many different crises in the Taiwan Strait, this layer of deterrence, wherein the United States has shown up with military force, has proven to be decisive in keeping the Taiwanese people free, and our deep network of allies in the region augments this second level of deterrence.
But there is also a third level of deterrence. The third level of deterrence is often not discussed, but in many ways, particularly now, it could be more powerful than the first and second levels, and that is the level that relates to bringing in the instruments of American power beyond our military, such as our global economic and financial strengths, to deter China from an invasion. You see this third level: economic and financial sanctions.
This is exactly what my bipartisan bill, the STAND with Taiwan Act, would do. I am working with several Senators on this bill right now. We have introduced it already, but we are going to recalibrate it, particularly with regard to the lessons learned from Ukraine.
One of those lessons that we learned from the brutal Ukrainian invasion by the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin in Ukraine is that comprehensive economic and financial sanctions have the best chance of deterring a conflict when they are clearly articulated and ready to go before the conflict begins. That wasn’t the case in Ukraine, and we will never know, had sanctions already been teed up and ready to go, if they could have deterred that conflict.
With the STAND with Taiwan Act, which stands for Sanctions Targeting Aggressors of Neighboring Democracies–STAND–the whole point of this would be to deter Xi Jinping from making the decision. That third layer of deterrence is saying: OK. If you militarily invade Taiwan, here are the massive sanctions that we and our allies are going to hit you with, and they will be devastating.
This bill makes it clear that we should be engaging with Taiwan economically, across the board, in many sectors. And this is where I have deep concern–and I believe many of my colleagues here in the US Senate have deep concerns–about the direction that might be happening with regard to the Biden administration.
Now, look, I am somebody who, you know, will be critical of the Biden administration when I think they are not doing a good job on certain things. And I do that a lot, particularly on a topic I am going to talk about here in a minute, energy. But in other areas, particularly as it relates to the Biden administration’s relationship with regard to our allies and Taiwan, I have been supportive of a number of their initiatives vocally because I think they have strengthened American interests in the INDOPACOM theater.
What are those?
Well, for example, the Biden administration took this initiative from the Trump administration–it actually started in the Bush administration–called the Quad. That is the biggest democracies in the INDOPACOM theater: US, Japan, Australia, and India.
They have taken that grouping, which, during the Trump administration, was reinvigorated, particularly by Secretary Pompeo, at the minister level, and the Biden administration has taken that to the leader level. The President of the United States meets with the leaders of Japan, Australia, and India on a regular basis. That is good. That is smart policy.
They have also launched another very innovative policy, the Australia-UK-US agreement to work together on military and defense issues: submarines, nuclear subs, AI, quantum computing. It is called the Arcus initiative. I think it is a really innovative initiative, and I have been very–one of the most vocal supporters of it in the US Senate.
The Biden administration has also been pressing the G-7 to do more as it relates to Taiwan–the first time ever in the G-7. That is a good initiative.
In a lot of these areas, I have been supportive. So what am I concerned about?
This is a concern I have, but it should be a concern that every Senator has. The administration is getting ready to announce what they are calling the Indo-Pacific economic framework. This is going to focus on more economic engagement with our allies in other countries in the INDOPACOM theater. OK. I support that in general. We will see what the details are. But right now, that initiative, which we need in terms of an initiative with regard to economics and other elements of connectivity with our allies in the region, appears to be on the verge of missing two critical factors.
No. 1, and the real purpose of what I wanted to talk about, right now, we are hearing from administration officials that the Indo-Pacific economic framework is going to exclude Taiwan. Whoa. Whoa. That would not be a good thing, and I don’t think many US Senators–Democrats or Republicans–would agree that the Biden administration’s first big economic initiative is going to exclude Taiwan, a very important economic player, very important technical player in terms of chip fabrication. Why would they do that? Well, it is not clear.
I have been pressing a number of Biden administration officials saying, you can’t make that move.
A : The Senate is not going to like it. And we have had a lot to say about US relations with Taiwan for decades. And, B: It just doesn’t make sense.
Some of the things I have heard is, well, there is this argument that trade is really not national security, so it doesn’t relate to Taiwan. Well, that is not correct. Trade and economic issues are clearly national security issues as it relates to our country, as it relates to our allies.
The other thing I have heard is that, well, some of the other countries in the Indo-Pacific framework don’t really want Taiwan in it. Again, we are the United States. We are the leader in that part of the world. If another country is saying, hey, I don’t want Taiwan in it, you know, I think we need to politely tell them that, too bad. They are going to be.
So I am primarily giving these remarks right now to let all of my Senate colleagues, many of whom–Democrats and Republicans–I know care about this issue.
I have been trying to raise the alarm with the administration, saying, bad idea if your big, first economic initiative for the INDOPACOM theater is not going to include Taiwan. I hope other colleagues of mine will do the same.
Let me give you one final area that this administration should be focused on as it relates to our partners in the region, and that is energy–that is energy. We have so many opportunities to do more with our allies–of course, in Europe but also in Asia–as it relates to energy.
I put forward legislation called the Quad energy initiative that would be an initiative dealing with the export and importation of LNG. Think about the Quad: the United States and Australia, two of the biggest exporters of LNG; Japan, probably the world’s biggest importer; and India, who wants to be to help their economy, to help their environment. This is something else I have been pressing this administration on.
It will help our trade deficits, it will help our energy security, and–you know I have talked about this a lot–it will help global emissions. The United States right now, since 2005, has been the leader in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, right there.
The climb-down was 15 percent since 2005. India, China, everywhere else, significant increases; more American clean burning LNG to our allies in the region, the Quad. But, heck, even China would help us, our national security, our workers at home, and our environment and the global environment.
I just want to end with this: I hope all of my Senate colleagues in the next couple of days can reach out to the Biden administration and say: Look, on a number of initiatives–the Quad, Arcus–you have been going in the right direction, and you have strong bipartisan support. But the INDOPACOM economic framework led by the United States, if it is leaving out Taiwan, that is going to be a huge problem, and I don’t think many U.S. Senators think that that would be a good idea.
Given our long history of leading in a bipartisan way on issues related to Taiwan, I am asking my colleagues to also reach out to the administration and say, there has to be a better way. We cannot economically isolate and forget about Taiwan when we need to be supporting them now more than ever.