House Republicans appear ready to increase U.S. support for Taiwan.
That was the eye-raising thread throughout speeches Wednesday by top Republicans in foreign affairs. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and committee member, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen spoke at Taiwan's diplomatic residence in Washington, addressing hundreds of friends of Taiwan at the event to celebrate Taiwan's 106th anniversary.
The simple fact two senior House Republicans were in attendance is notable in and of itself, considering that the U.S. legally does not recognize Taiwan. China, meanwhile, is pathologically opposed to any hint of U.S. support for Taiwan. Royce and Ros-Lehtinen would have known this and that their speeches would infuriate Beijing.
It's good they turned up anyway.
First off, by supporting Taiwan's independence, the U.S. consolidates a democratic ally that is under constant threat of invasion by an authoritarian superpower. While American words alone won't be enough to ensure Taiwan's independence, whenever senior U.S. officials offer support for the Taiwanese government, they remind the world that America still stands for human freedom. And because of America's unparalleled global power, these words carry a weight that requires notice from foreign powers.
Second, by strengthening Taiwan, the U.S. government also expresses a necessary sense of discontent to China. I say necessary, in view of China's continuing lethargy towards sanctioning North Korea, and its military efforts to dominate East China Sea trade routes.
Of course, what Taiwan really wants is approval to buy U.S. weapon systems. Guarding against the reality that too much U.S. military technology seems to travel from Taiwan into the hands of Chinese intelligence, the Trump administration should speed up the supply of "4.5 generation" weapons systems such as advanced F-15 and F-18 variants. This approach would bolster Taiwan's security and aggravate China, while protecting more advanced U.S. capabilities such as the F-35 fighter jet from being compromised.
Ultimately, however, greater U.S. support for Taiwan has a simple merit: It represents the synergy of U.S. moral values and realist interests.