TAIPEI, Taiwan—The U.S. State Department has voiced concerns about China’s continued military aggression against Taiwan, after China breached the island’s air defense zone with 13 military aircraft.
“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan’s democratically elected representatives,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement on Jan. 23.
He added: “We will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a sufficient self-defense capability. Our commitment to Taiwan is rock-solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region.”
Beijing’s coercion against Taiwan is nothing new, as the Chinese communist regime claims the self-ruled island as a part of its territory and has repeatedly threatened to use military force to bring the island under its fold. However, the coercion intensified under the Trump administration, which elevated engagement with Taiwan through more arms sales and the lifting of restrictions on U.S. contact with Taiwanese officials.
Chinese jets violated Taiwan’s airspace about 380 times in 2020 and have continued to carry out such incursions on a nearly daily basis this year, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense.
On Saturday, less than a week into Joe Biden’s presidency, China made its largest-scale military incursion this year, when the Chinese regime sent 13 military aircraft—eight bomber planes, four fighter jets, and an anti-submarine aircraft—to fly over Taiwan’s southwest waters.
Taiwan is a de-facto independent nation-state, with its own democratically elected government, military, currency, and constitution.
“The United States will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues, consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan. The United States maintains its longstanding commitments as outlined in the Three Communiqués, the Taiwan Relations Act, and the Six Assurances,” Price added.
Washington ended its diplomatic ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing in 1979 but has maintained a robust relationship with the island based on the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), which was signed into law by former President Jimmy Carter in April 1979. The TRA authorizes the United States to provide the island with military equipment for its self-defense.
In 1982, former President Ronald Reagan also made six security assurances to Taiwan, including that the United States pledges not to set a date for ending arms sales to the island, and that it would neither consult Beijing on any arms sales nor revise the TRA.
It remains to be seen how President Joe Biden will maintain U.S.-Taiwan relations.
Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, said during his Senate nomination hearing on Jan. 19 that Beijing would be making a “grievous mistake” if it decided to use military force against Taiwan.
“We need to make sure that they [Taiwan] have the means to deter aggression,” Blinken said. He added that he would like to see “Taiwan even more engaged in the world.”
On Jan. 21 in a daily briefing, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying voiced opposition against how Taiwan’s de-facto ambassador to the United States Hsiao Bi-khim had attended Biden’s inauguration ceremony.
Hua said China was “firmly against” any official interactions between the United States and Taiwan. She also called on the U.S. government to “prudently and properly handle issues relating to Taiwan.”
Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs thanked the State Department for its support via Twitter on Jan. 24.
“Based on shared values & interests, we’re committed to our partnership with the #US in furthering peace & stability in the #IndoPacific,” the ministry said.
Also on Sunday, Taiwanese lawmaker Wang Ting-yu applauded the State Department for its powerful statement on his Facebook page. He added that it was worth watching any concrete military or political actions the U.S. government might take next with regards to Taiwan.
Wang also added that the Chinese Communist Party was “testing” the new Pentagon chief with its large-scale military incursion against Taiwan on Saturday.
On Jan. 22, the Senate confirmed Biden’s nominee, Lloyd Austin, as the new Secretary of Defense.