Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has sought to bolster military exchanges with the United States in the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) continued provocations against the self-ruled island.
“Going forward, Taiwan will step up cooperation with the United States and other democratic partners to confront such global challenges as authoritarian expansionism and climate change,” Tsai said on Tuesday.
Tsai made the remarks during a meeting with a U.S. delegation in Taipei, which occurred just days after U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense Michael Chase made an unannounced visit to Taiwan on Feb. 17.
The Taiwanese leader said that her nation “would continue to bolster military exchanges” with the United States, but she did not go into detail about what these military exchanges would entail.
Glad to welcome the bipartisan delegation led by @RepRoKhanna & to see @RepTonyGonzales back in Taiwan. By continuing to deepen the #Taiwan–#US partnership, we will find more opportunities for cooperation & strengthen our resilience, post-pandemic & beyond. pic.twitter.com/9aEefCcn7Q
— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) February 21, 2023
“Together, we can continue to safeguard the values of democracy and freedom and contribute to post-pandemic economic recovery,” she added, according to her office.
Ro Khanna, who was leading the U.S. bipartisan delegation, said the purpose of the Taiwan visit was to deepen economic and technology cooperation, as well as defense ties with the self-governing island.
“We are here to affirm the shared values between the United States and Taiwan, and commitment to democracy, commitment to freedom,” he was quoted as saying by Taiwan’s Presidential Office.
The meeting occurred as the CCP escalated pressure on Taiwan, which it views as a breakaway province that must be reunited with mainland China by all means necessary.
Chinese incursions into Taiwan have occurred almost daily. On Tuesday, Taiwan’s military detected 11 Chinese aircraft and three vessels, with two of the aircraft entering Taiwan’s airspace.
Chase reportedly arrived in Taiwan on Feb. 17, making him the top U.S. defense official known to have visited the island since 2019. The Chinese Foreign Ministry denounced his visit and demanded that the U.S. cease all forms of official interactions with Taiwan.
The United States is a major arms supplier to Taiwan despite having no formal diplomatic ties. It maintains a “one China” policy, which formally recognizes—but doesn’t endorse—the CCP’s position on the matter
Although the United States doesn’t maintain formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan and has sworn to not unilaterally champion the island’s independence, it’s legally bound by the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 to provide Taiwan with the arms necessary for self-defense.
Taiwan Ruled Out Confrontation
Tsai has earlier ruled out armed confrontation with China, saying that her government is willing to engage with the CCP to reach a “mutually agreeable arrangement.”
In her national address in October 2022, Tsai said it was “regrettable” that China had escalated its military intimidation, diplomatic pressure, and trade obstructions to remove Taiwan’s sovereignty.
“I want to make clear to the Beijing authorities that armed confrontation is absolutely not an option for our two sides,” Tsai remarked.
“Only by respecting the commitment of the Taiwanese people to our sovereignty, democracy, and freedom can there be a foundation for resuming constructive interaction across the Taiwan Strait,” she added.
The CCP launched military drills near Taiwan after a controversial visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in August 2022, firing multiple ballistic missiles over Taiwan and imposing a blockade of its international sea.
Tsai said that Taiwan is willing to negotiate with China to restore peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, but that it must not compromise the freedom and democracy of the Taiwanese people.
CIA Director William Burns said on Feb. 2 the United States is aware “as a matter of intelligence” that Chinese leader Xi Jinping has ordered his military to be prepared to invade Taiwan by 2027.
Burns said that Xi’s military order may not represent his timeline for the CCP’s invasion of Taiwan, but it demonstrates his “seriousness” in pursuing this goal.
“Our assessment at CIA is that I wouldn’t underestimate President Xi’s ambitions with regard to Taiwan,” Burns said at an event at Georgetown University in Washington.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said that Washington will defend Taiwan if China attacks, but the U.S. policy on Taiwan remains unchanged.
“We agree with a ‘One China’ policy, we’ve signed onto it, and all the intended agreements made from there. But the idea that [Taiwan] can be taken by force … is just not appropriate,” Biden said during a May. 23, 2022, press conference in Tokyo.
Andrew Thornebrooke and Reuters contributed to this report.