Wherever you may be, we wish you and those close to you the very best Year of the Rabbit.
Daniel Kritenbrink and Ely Ratner, Testimony on the U.S. Partnership with Taiwan, Dec. 8, 2021
Daniel Kritenbrink, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Chairman Menendez, Ranking Member Risch, distinguished Members of the Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today about our partnership with Taiwan, including our expanding security cooperation, and our efforts to coordinate with like-minded countries to preserve peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.
Taiwan is a leading democracy, a technological powerhouse, and a force for good. Our shared values, commercial and economic links, as well as people-to-people ties form the bedrock of our friendship and serve as the impetus for our expanding engagement with Taiwan. This sentiment is the lodestar in managing our critically important unofficial relationship with Taiwan.
Our one China policy, as guided by the Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances, has promoted peace and prosperity in the region for over 40 years across multiple administrations from both parties. Our policy also maximizes our ability to broaden and deepen U.S.-Taiwan cooperation, and best ensures the future of Taiwan is determined by its people, peacefully and free of PRC coercion.
Through the American Institute in Taiwan, our cooperation with Taiwan has increased in recent years, including in several new areas. Taiwan has become an important U.S. partner in trade and investment, health, semiconductor and other critical supply chains, investment screening, science and technology, education, and democratic governance. Under this Administration, we have advanced these cooperative efforts in a number of ways, including:
• Resuming Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks to further interlink our economies;
• Inviting Taiwan to share its expertise at the Global COVID-19 Summit;
• Holding the U.S.-Taiwan Consultations on Democratic Governance in the Indo-Pacific to advance human rights in a region under pressure from authoritarian regimes;
• Convening the second annual U.S.-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue (EPPD) to build secure and resilient supply chains between our economies, counter economic coercion, and pave the way for deeper cooperation on next generation technologies and scientific endeavors; and
• Inviting Taiwan to share its expertise on using digital tools to combat disinformation and authoritarianism at the Summit for Democracy.
As Taiwan’s response to the pandemic has shown, it is also a willing partner with significant expertise to help solve global challenges. The United States, Japan, and now Australia, have worked together to showcase Taiwan’s ability to help the world through the Global Cooperation and Training Framework, or GCTF. The GCTF provides training and technical assistance to third-country participants, which builds support for Taiwan around the world by demonstrating the value of its participation on the global stage. Since its inception in 2015, the GCTF has provided training to more than 3,000 participants in dozens of workshops ranging from building media literacy to empowering women entrepreneurs. This year, we have started a “franchise program” that enables U.S. embassies to work with Taiwan representative offices and likeminded partners to hold GCTF events on pressing regional problems. I am particularly grateful for congressional support for GCTF, which will significantly enhance the program’s reach.
Our relationship with Taiwan brings tremendous benefits to the American people. As just one example, cutting-edge semiconductors from Taiwan are key components for many of our most important industries. Taiwan companies, most notably TSMC, are now investing billions of dollars in the United States to create high-paying jobs and help ensure our semiconductor supply chains are resilient. And we still remember with great gratitude Taiwan’s donation of millions of articles of PPE at the start of the pandemic last year. As part of our partnership on health, the United States has provided Taiwan with 4 million doses of Moderna vaccine.
The United States is firmly committed to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, where we have long had an enduring national interest. We continue to oppose unilateral changes to the status quo and call for cross-Strait issues to be resolved in a peaceful manner that is consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people on Taiwan. It is for this reason that we view the PRC’s growing coercive and provocative behavior toward Taiwan with serious concern.
Since the 2016 election of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, the PRC has used military, diplomatic, and economic coercion to undermine the status quo in the Taiwan Strait. These actions are destabilizing to the region and risk a miscalculation that could harm the global economy.
In response to the growing PRC military threat, the United States has and will continue to make available to Taiwan the defense articles and services necessary to enable it to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability, consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act. The United States has notified Congress of more than $32 billion worth of arms to Taiwan since 2009, but we should be clear that arms sales alone cannot ensure Taiwan’s ability to defend itself. As my Department of Defense colleague will note, we also are encouraging Taiwan to prioritize asymmetric capabilities that complicate PRC planning and to implement necessary defense reforms that will strengthen the resilience of Taiwan’s society against PRC coercion.
In addition to increased PLA military activity near Taiwan, the PRC continues to execute campaigns to sway Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic partners into breaking official ties; to bully countries, such as Lithuania, when they seek to deepen engagement with Taiwan; and to block Taiwan’s participation in international organizations. These campaigns seek to coercively influence how countries decide the contours of their policy with respect to cross-Strait issues. It is also part of a longer PRC campaign to diminish Taiwan’s international space, which ultimately robs the global community of the many benefits derived from Taiwan’s expertise in solving shared challenges.
To preserve Taiwan’s “international space,” we continue to work with likeminded countries to ensure that Taiwan is acknowledged as a respected and constructive democratic actor in international affairs. Maintaining Taiwan’s international space is fundamental to preserving the cross-Strait status quo and denying the PRC the political conditions it views as being conducive for coerced unification on Beijing’s terms.
To that end, it is critical that we have our Senate-confirmed Ambassadors in the region, to help shore up our alliances and push back against malign influence. Unfortunately, our nominees to some of the most important countries in the region, including Japan, Vietnam, and China itself, are awaiting confirmation in the Senate after being voice-voted out of this Committee with broad bipartisan support. I respectfully ask for your help in confirming them as quickly as possible.
Through our diplomatic channels, the United States continues to raise the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait with our allies and partners, and to express our strong concerns to the PRC regarding its actions and behavior toward Taiwan. We have publicly and privately urged the PRC to abide by its commitment to peacefully resolve cross-Strait issues and to engage Taiwan in a meaningful dialogue to deescalate tensions.
As a result of the PRC’s actions, the global community has become more vocal regarding its concerns over the Taiwan Strait and its support for Taiwan’s international space. Several countries’ parliamentarians have visited Taiwan or passed measures expressing support for Taiwan. Many U.S. allies and partners also have publicly raised their concerns about maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Congress has played a critical role in championing continued U.S. and international support for Taiwan, for which we are grateful. This support is important in demonstrating to the PRC that Taiwan is not merely a so-called “internal affair,” but rather a matter of great consequence and importance to the global community and economy.
In summary, our relationship with Taiwan is truly “rock solid.” Taiwan time and again has proven to be a valuable partner. The United States will continue to support Taiwan publicly. We will continue to work with Taiwan on initiatives that demonstrate the value it brings to the international community. And we will continue to encourage like-minded countries’ engagement with and public demonstrations of support for Taiwan. Only then can we ultimately preserve the peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific that undergirds a strong global economy and our national interest.
Thank you. I look forward to your questions.
Ely Ratner, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Affairs
Chairman Menendez, Ranking Member Risch, distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity today to describe how the Department of Defense is supporting Taiwan’s ability to defend its vibrant, prosperous democracy.
I’d like to begin with an overview of why Taiwan’s security is so important to the United States. As you know, Taiwan is located at a critical node within the first island chain, anchoring a network of U.S. allies and partners—stretching from the Japanese archipelago down to the Philippines and into the South China Sea—that is critical to the region’s security and critical to the defense of vital U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific. Geographically, Taiwan is also situated alongside major trade lanes that provide sea lines of communication for much of the world’s commerce and energy shipping. It is in part for these strategic reasons that this Administration, like those before it, has affirmed our commitment to our one-China policy, as guided by the
Taiwan Relations Act, the three Joint U.S.-PRC Communiques, and the Six Assurances.
Taiwan is also integral to the regional and global economy. Its free-market economy embraces innovation, entrepreneurship, and private-sector led growth, which has helped Taiwan become a valuable economic and trade partner for the United States. Indeed, our economy—like many others around the world—has come to count on Taiwan as a critical supplier of high-technology, including semiconductors.
Moreover, Taiwan is a beacon of democratic values and ideals. In stark contrast to deepening authoritarianism and oppression in the PRC, Taiwan has proven the possibilities of an alternative path to that of the Chinese Communist Party.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) Threat
Unfortunately, although the PRC publicly advocates for peaceful unification with Taiwan, leaders in Beijing have never renounced the use of military aggression.
In fact, the PLA is likely preparing for a contingency to unify Taiwan with the PRC by force, while simultaneously attempting to deter, delay, or deny third-party intervention on Taiwan’s behalf.
The PRC’s options for military campaigns against Taiwan are bolstered by the PLA’s rapidly advancing capabilities, including the sophistication of its surface ships and submarines, advances in combat aircraft and air defenses, the increased quantity and quality of ballistic and cruise missiles, and the development of tools for cyber and information warfare.
The PRC threat to Taiwan, however, is not limited to invasion or blockade. The PLA is conducting a broader coercive campaign in the air and maritime domains around Taiwan. These operations are destabilizing, intentionally provocative, and increase the likelihood of miscalculation. They put the prosperity and security of the region at risk, and are part of a pattern of PRC military coercion and aggression against other U.S. allies and partners in the region, including India, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
DoD Priorities for Taiwan
Although the PLA’s actions are real and dangerous, and PLA modernization is unlikely to abate, the PRC can still be deterred through a combination of Taiwan’s own defenses, its partnership with the United States, and growing support from like-minded democracies. Through smart investments and key reform efforts, Taiwan can send a clear signal that its society and armed forces are committed and prepared to defend Taiwan. Without question, bolstering Taiwan’s self-defenses is an urgent task and an essential feature of deterrence.
We therefore appreciate that President Tsai has prioritized the development of asymmetric capabilities for Taiwan’s self-defense that are credible, resilient, mobile, distributed, and cost-effective. In short, these are affordable investments in lethal capabilities tailored to counter the military threat from the PRC. These capabilities are aimed to strengthen multi-domain deterrence and ensure that an invasion or attack could neither succeed rapidly nor occur without substantial costs. DoD is taking an increasingly proactive approach to supporting these efforts as we continue upholding our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to make available to Taiwan relevant defense articles and services.
Asymmetric capabilities, however, are only one part of the deterrence equation. Taiwan must complement investments in these critical capabilities with equal focus on enhancing resilience, supporting civil-military integration, and building a strategy that includes defense-in-depth. In this regard, President Tsai’s determination to reform Taiwan’s reserve forces and integrate civilian and military agencies under the All-Out Defense Mobilization Agency is critical to enhancing Taiwan’s overall preparedness—and in doing so will further strengthen deterrence. DoD will continue to work with relevant U.S. departments and agencies to support Taiwan’s efforts in this regard.
DoD’s Focus on Taiwan
In addition to the provision of defensive arms and services to Taiwan, the Department remains committed to maintaining the capacity of the United States to resist the resort to force or other forms of coercion that may jeopardize the security of the people on Taiwan. Let me be clear that this is an absolute priority: The PRC is the Department’s pacing challenge and a Taiwan contingency is the pacing scenario. We are modernizing our capabilities, updating U.S. force posture, and developing new operational concepts accordingly.
I should also underscore that the Department’s efforts to deter PRC aggression and enhance Taiwan’s defenses will not be in isolation. Countries throughout the Indo Pacific and beyond recognize that PRC aggression against Taiwan would have serious consequences for their interests, and are increasingly voicing concerns about PRC coercion and potential aggression against Taiwan. As evidenced by a number of recent multilateral operations and exercises, the Department is focused on enhancing our regional cooperation as a means of bolstering deterrence.
Finally, I’d like to close by thanking all of you for your strong, bipartisan support for Taiwan. It is my firm belief that this bipartisanship is one of our most powerful assets in the defense of Taiwan, and should be nurtured and treated as such. In that context, the Department’s partnership and bipartisan collaboration with Congress are critical to ensuring that we continue to meet our commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act. Please be assured that the Department of Defense understands the growing threat from the PRC and its military, and we are committed, in line with our longstanding policy, to ensure Taiwan’s ability to deter and defend its successful and prosperous democracy.
Thank you for your time and attention, and I look forward to your questions.
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