U.S. National security advisor encourages Taiwan to increase military spending and in the same breath warns Beijing against any attempts to invade the island nation.
The United States’ national security adviser Robert O’Brien warned Beijing on Wednesday against any attempt to take Taiwan by forces as China has been engaged in a massive naval buildup.
Speaking at an event in the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, O’Brien said that China was engaged in a significant naval build-up probably not seen since Germany’s attempt to compete with Britain’s Royal Navy prior to WWI and is planning to gain the ability to push the United States out of the Western Pacific and engage in an amphibious landing in Taiwan.
“The problem with that is that amphibious landings are notoriously difficult,” O’Brien added, pointing to the 160km distance between China and Taiwan and the few landing beaches on the island.
“It’s not an easy task, and there’s also a lot of ambiguity about what the United States would do in response to an attack by China on Taiwan,” he added, when asked what US options would be if China, which considers the self-ruled island part of its territory, tried to absorb Taiwan.
The US is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, but it has not made clear whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack, something that would likely lead to a much broader conflict.
O’Brien’s comments came at a time when the graph of hostility between The U.S. and China has plunged to the lowest in decades.
China hawks in Congress have introduced a bill called the Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act, which would authorize the president to use military force if Beijing attempted to forcibly reunify Taiwan. A version of the bill has been introduced in both the House and the Senate.
Turn into a ‘porcupine’
O’Brien has repeatedly called for Taiwan to spend more on its own defense and to carry out military reforms. As the U.S fears the fact that China spends about 25 times more on its military than Taiwan.
“You can’t just spend 1 percent of your GDP, which the Taiwanese have been doing – 1.2 percent – on defense, and hope to deter a China that’s been engaged in the most massive military build-up in 70 years,” he said.
Taiwan needed to “turn themselves into a porcupine” militarily, he said, adding: “Lions generally don’t like to eat porcupines.”
In Taipei, the Ministry of National Defense (MND), in a response provided to Reuters, said that it would “strive for an adequate budget” in accordance with its needs to build a solid national defense force.
Strife between the countries
Though Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party has threatened to invade Taiwan for more than seven decades. The China-Taiwan tensions escalated last month after Chinese aircraft ventured across the median line of the Taiwan strait, causing the island’s air force to scramble fighters and deploy an air defence missile system.
According to Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense, twelve J-16 fighters, two J-10 fighters, two J-11 fighters, two H-6 bombers and one Y-8 Anti-submarine warfare of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) crossed the line, violating the island’s sovereignty.
Recently, the United States announced that it is establishing a new economic dialogue with Taiwan in the face of increasing pressure from Beijing.
David Stilwell, a top US diplomat for East Asia said “We will continue to help Taipei resist the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign to pressure, intimidate, and marginalize Taiwan.”