President Trump’s administration should not flinch from military cooperation with Taiwan, despite a dramatic warning from China, according to a pair of Republican senators.
“I take Beijing’s threats to use military force against Taiwan seriously,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said Monday. “That's why I urge both the president and Congress to accelerate the sale of defensive weapons to Taiwan, as well as to bring Taiwan into joint military exercises with the United States.”
Such cooperation has alarmed Chinese officials for years, but the Communist power has launched a particularly-aggressive campaign against congressional legislation that would allow for the United States and Taiwanese navies to visit each other’s ports, among other defense cooperation plans. Congress ignored that pressure, but leading to a new threat from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
“The day that a U.S. Navy vessel arrives in [a Taiwanese port], is the day that our People’s Liberation Army unites Taiwan with military force,” Chinese embassy Minister Li Kexin said last week during an event attended by Chinese and Taiwanese students, per the Taiwan News.
The Communist Party of China regards Taiwan, a strategically-important island off its eastern coast, as a breakaway province — the last stronghold of the nationalist government overthrown by the Chinese communists after the World War II. Taiwan functions as an independent state with friendly, if unofficial, ties with the United States. But it has not formally been recognized as a nation eligible for membership at the United Nations, for instance.
“Every day that Taiwan exists, that proves that you can have a democratic Chinese state and that's a threat to the (Communist Party of) China,” as a GOP aide explained.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., agreed the United States should rebuff the latest threat.
“The United States and Taiwan, a democratic ally, have long had a security relationship,” Rubio, who co-chairs the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, told the Washington Examiner. “This year’s Defense Authorization Act clearly calls for the Navy to strengthen our partnership with Taiwan. I support the provisions in the act.”
China has made aggressive efforts to police the waterways in its vicinity in recent years, most notably asserting sovereignty over much of the South China Sea, one of the most vital shipping lanes in the world. Some lawmakers see the moves as part of a plan to bring Taiwan to heel.
"If you look at what China is doing in the South China Sea ... they're boxing in Taiwan,” Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee for the Asia-Pacific region, told the Washington Examiner in June. "They're definitely prepping for [conflict].”
Cotton wants the United States to keep helping Taiwan’s preparations.
“We can't afford to take Beijing’s saber-rattling lightly,” he said.