Bolstering Taiwan’s defenses an ‘urgent task’: senior Pentagon official

Bolstering Taiwan's defenses is an "urgent task" amid mounting concerns over potential Chinese aggression, said a top American defense official on Wednesday at a Senate committee hearing.

Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs at the Department of Defense, made the remarks in a testimony at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the United States' future policy on Taiwan.

"Without question, bolstering Taiwan's self-defenses is an urgent task and an essential feature of deterrence," said Ratner, whose comments came one day after National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan indicated that the U.S. would take every action in diplomacy and deterrence to prevent the forcible unification of Taiwan by China.

"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," he added.

Tensions between Taiwan and China have been on the rise in recent months, with Beijing sending warplanes and warships near Taiwan's waters and airspace on an almost daily basis.

"These operations are destabilizing, intentionally provocative and increase the likelihood of miscalculation," Ratner said, referring to the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) coercive campaign in the air and maritime domains around Taiwan.

"They put the prosperity and security of the region at risk, and are part of a pattern of PRC [People's Republic of China] military coercion and aggression against other U.S. allies and partners in the region, including India, Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam," Ratner said.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink, who was also at the committee hearing, said the PLA's "bullying behavior" directed at Taiwan was concerning and destabilizing, and risked undermining peace and stability in the region.

Kritenbrink said he believed that these actions posed a risk of miscalculation that could harm the global economy.

"In response, the U.S. has and will continue to make available to Taiwan, the defense articles and services necessary to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act," he said, citing as an example the more than US$32 billion in arms sold to Taiwan since 2009.

According to Kritenbrink, the arms sales alone are not enough, as the U.S. also encourages Taiwan to prioritize asymmetric capabilities that complicate China's planning and coercion.

The U.S. is "firmly committed to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, where we have an enduring national interest," he said, adding that the country will continue to oppose unilateral changes to the status quo.

Regarding a media report earlier this year that Washington was considering allowing the name of Taiwan's mission in the U.S. capital to be changed from "Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office" to "Taiwan Representative Office," Kritenbrink said the issue was still being assessed.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel