Taiwan’s defense minister said on Oct. 28 that the island must have the ability to defend itself, and not rely on others for help, if the Chinese regime were to attack.
The remarks came after the island’s president said she had “faith” that the United States would come to Taiwan’s aid if the Chinese regime were to invade.
“As I have repeatedly emphasized before, a country must rely on itself,” Chiu Kuo-cheng, the island’s defense minister, told reporters before the legislative committee session on Thursday. “If any friends or other groups can help us, then it’s like I said before, we’re happy to have it, but we cannot completely depend on it.”
Taiwan has recently come under intense pressure as the Chinese regime stepped up its campaign of military harassment targeting the self-ruled island it claims as its own, sending a record number of military aircraft into international airspace near Taiwan at the start of October.
In an interview aired on Wednesday with CNN, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen was asked if she had confidence the United States would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack, to which she responded, “I do have faith.”
“We have a wide range of cooperation with the US aiming at increasing our defense capability,” Tsai said.
She added that the “threat from China is increasing every day.”
Washington maintains longstanding policy towards Taiwan, known as “strategic ambiguity,” meaning that U.S. administrations have been deliberately vague on whether it would defend the island in the event of a Chinese invasion. The Chinese regime has never renounced the use of force to seize Taiwan.
During the interview, Tsai also acknowledged the presence of a small number of U.S. troops on the island, the first time the island’s leader has confirmed this.
When questioned about the president’s confirmation, the defense minister said the U.S. troops are not stationed there and are only assisting with training exercises.
“There are some military exchanges between Taiwan and the U.S., and some of their people have come here to help our training,” Chiu said during a legislature hearing on Thursday, adding that no U.S. forces are currently garrisoned on the island.
In 1979, the United States withdrew its permanently based forces on the island when it ended its diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of Beijing.
Despite its non-diplomatic ties with the island, the United States maintains a robust relationship with Taipei based on the Taiwan Relations Act, which authorizes Washington to provide the island with military equipment for its self-defense.
At the beginning of October, Beijing sent nearly 150 military aircraft over Taiwan’s air defense zone over four days, in a record show of strength that prompted Chiu at the time to describe cross-strait tensions as the worst he’s seen in 40 years. He also said that Beijing would “have the “full ability” to invade the island in four years.
In a speech on Oct. 9, Chinese leader Xi Jinping renewed calls that Taiwan “must” and “will definitely” be “reunified” with the mainland.
On Wednesday, President Joe Biden at a summit of East Asian leaders said the United States was deeply concerned by the Chinese regime’s “coercive” actions in the Taiwan Strait.
In response, Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, at a Thursday press conference, said the regime “firmly opposed any form of official contacts and military ties” between the United States and Taiwan.
Wang lashed out at the United States, saying it was interfering in Beijing’s “internal affairs” and sent “wrong signals” to the island.
In another press conference, the Chinese Defense Ministry’s spokesperson Tan Kefei said Beijing would “resolutely counter and fight back” if Washington attempted to upgrade military connections with Taiwan.
Last week, Biden caused a stir when he said a “commitment” to defend Taiwan if the Chinese regime attacked, contradicting Washington’s policy of strategic ambiguity.
The White House clarified the next day that Biden was “not intending to convey a change in policy, nor has he made a decision to change our policy.”
The Associated Press and Cathy He contributed to this report.