US defense official says strengthening Taiwan defenses an “urgent task”

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Strengthening Taiwan’s defenses is an urgent and essential task to deter the threat of invasion by China, the top Pentagon official for Asia said on Wednesday, adding that the US partners were stepping up their presence. military in the region.

Tensions between Taiwan and China have escalated in recent months as Beijing ramps up pressure on the island it claims to be its own with repeated air missions over the Taiwan Strait, the waterway separating the democratically ruled island. from China.

“There is no doubt that strengthening Taiwan’s self-defense is an urgent task and an essential part of deterrence,” US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner said at the meeting. ‘a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Ratner added that China’s air and sea campaigns around Taiwan were “intentionally provocative” and increased the likelihood of miscalculations between the Indo-Pacific armed forces.

“They put the prosperity and security of the region at risk and are part of a pattern of the PRC’s military coercion and aggression against other US allies and partners in the region, including India, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam, ”Ratner said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

“We see countries stepping up their military presence in the region and their willingness to support deterrence in ways that we did not have before,” he added, citing joint military activities with Canada, the Great. -Brittany and Japan.

The United States has no official connection to Taiwan, but is its biggest arms supplier and tries to make it more part of the international system in the face of Beijing’s growing efforts to isolate Taipei.

US President Joe Biden caused a stir in October when he said the United States, which is obligated by a 1979 law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, would stand up for itself if China attacked.

The remarks appeared to depart from Washington’s longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity” – failing to spell out how the United States would react – although the White House was quick to say Biden was not signaling a policy change. .

Some U.S. lawmakers, including influential House Intelligence Committee Democratic chairman Adam Schiff, have urged the Biden administration to be less ambiguous.

Asked by committee chair Senator Bob Menendez if this policy were to be changed, Ratner said he believed it would not significantly enhance deterrence.

When asked what he considered the greatest risk to Taiwan, Ratner replied, “China’s challenge is a problem today, a problem tomorrow, a problem in 2027, a problem with China. of 2030, a problem of 2040 and beyond. I don’t think there is a date we have to pick on the calendar and we have to make sure that we maintain deterrence from today. “

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