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Defense & National Security —Biden backs Taiwan

The Hill illustration, Madeline Monroe/AP

President Biden for the third time since the start of his presidency said the United States would be willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan should China invade the island. 

We’ll break down the remarks and China’s reaction, plus which countries are sending new security aid to Ukraine, whether U.S. troops will be sent to protect the newly reopened U.S. Embassy in Kyiv and the new push from lawmakers to fast track Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership bids. 

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.

Biden: US would defend Taiwan against China  

President Biden on Monday said the U.S. would be willing to defend Taiwan militarily if China were to try to take it by force. 

“Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?” Biden was asked at a press conference in Tokyo alongside the Japanese prime minister. 

“Yes,” Biden responded. “That’s the commitment we made. That’s the commitment we made.” 

‘Just not appropriate’: “Look, here’s the situation. We agree with the ‘One China’ policy … but the idea that to be taken by force, just taken by force, is just not appropriate,” Biden continued. “It will dislocate the entire region and be another action similar to what happened in Ukraine.” 

Biden said he does not believe China will attempt to take Taiwan by force, adding that the united global response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine can serve as a deterrent against possible aggression by Beijing. 

Some confusion: The White House shortly after the press conference reiterated Biden’s comments that the U.S. position on Taiwan has not changed and it still abides by the “One China” policy, which recognizes Beijing as the representative government of China but considers Taiwan’s status unsettled. 

Still, Monday is the latest instance of the president’s comments spurring some confusion. 

China’s response: In response, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin expressed “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition” to Biden’s comments. 

“China has no room for compromise or concessions on issues involving China’s core interests such as sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said. 

China has been increasingly aggressive in recent years, stepping up military flights into Taiwan’s airspace and sending ships through the Taiwan Strait. The pattern has raised alarms among the international community that Beijing may ultimately plan to take Taiwan by force. 

A walk back: The White House quickly walked back Biden’s comments at the time, saying he was not announcing a policy change. 

Read the full story here 

20 countries agree to new security aid for Ukraine 

Some 20 countries have committed to new security assistance packages for Ukraine following a multination conference on how to meet Kyiv’s needs, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Monday.  

The virtual meeting, which included ministers and chiefs of defense from 47 countries, was the second Ukraine Contact Group gathering since Russia’s attack began in late February.   

New commitments: “Many countries are donating critically needed artillery ammunition, coastal defense systems and tanks and other armored vehicles,” Austin told reporters at the Pentagon after the meeting ended. “Others came forward with new commitments for training Ukraine’s forces and sustaining its military systems.”  

Who’s giving what: Among the weapons being committed is a Harpoon launcher and missiles from Denmark to “help Ukraine defend its coast,” Austin said.   

The Czech Republic, meanwhile, agreed to send “substantial support, including a recent donation of attack helicopters, tanks and rocket systems,” he added.  

In addition, Italy, Greece, Norway and Poland all announced new donations of artillery systems and ammunition. 

Intensifying efforts: Austin said he was encouraged by several more countries joining the group in its second meeting, including Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Ireland and Kosovo.  

“I’m deeply grateful to these countries and to all the countries that have stood up today,” he said. “In the short four weeks since the contact group convened at Ramstein, the momentum of donations and deliveries has been outstanding. And after today’s discussions, I’m pleased to report that we’re intensifying our efforts.” 

Read more here 

Pentagon may send troops to protect embassy 

Plans to send U.S. forces back into Ukraine to guard the recently reopened American Embassy in Kyiv are “underway at a relatively low level,” Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday.  

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that officials are mulling plans to send special forces to Kyiv to guard the U.S. Embassy. The effort is a delicate one, as it requires balancing the safety of American diplomats while avoiding what Russia could see as an escalation.  

“Some of the things that may have been out there in the media, those are planning efforts that are underway at a relatively low level,” Milley told reporters at the Pentagon, seeming to refer to the Journal’s report.   

Nothing solid: Such plans “have not yet made it to [Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin] or myself for that matter, for refinement of courses of action and what’s needed,” he noted. 

Milley added that any reintroduction of U.S. forces into Ukraine would require a presidential decision.   

“We’re a ways away from anything like that. We’re still developing courses of action, and none of that has been presented yet to the secretary,” he said.   

Troop numbers now: Biden has consistently pledged that no U.S. troops will be sent into Ukraine to help forces there, though there are thousands of service members based just outside its borders in countries including Poland and Romania.  

Milley said there are now about 102,000 American troops based in Europe, a more than 30 percent increase since the war began.  

“Last fall the United States military had about 78,000 in [U.S. European Command] — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Space Force,” Milley said. “In a few short months, we bolstered that by over 30 percent.” 

Read the rest of the story here 

US wants to rush Finland, Sweden joining NATO   

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plan to present a resolution that will press the Biden administration to rush the paperwork for Finland and Sweden to join NATO.  

In the resolution text, first obtained by Politico, both Senate leaders note the roles played by the Nordic countries in organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union, and their neutral stance on matters pertaining to Europe as reasons why they should join the alliance.  

What it does: The resolution calls on President Biden to move swiftly to complete all necessary documents involving both countries’ NATO membership so the Senate can advance the measure, also calling on fellow NATO members to swiftly complete their own ratification processes. 

Who is backing it: It is being submitted by McConnell and Schumer along with a number of leading Senate voices on Ukraine aid, including Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). 

“NATO has been the cornerstone of Western defense since World War II, and President Niinistö of Finland and Prime Minister Andersson of Sweden are showing strong leadership in joining the United States and its allies against Putin’s deeply immoral campaign of violence,” Schumer said in a statement Monday. 

McConnell’s reasoning: McConnell said in the statement that “Finland and Sweden are strong countries with formidable military capabilities that surpass many existing NATO allies.” 

“Both nations’ robust defense funding means their accession would meaningfully bolster our pursuit of greater burden-sharing across the alliance,” he added. 

Read more here 

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • President Biden is in Tokyo where he will participate in the second in-person Quad Leaders’ Summit. He also will hold bilateral meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.  
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host a discussion on “U.S. and German Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” at 8:30 a.m. 
  • The Atlantic Council will hold a talk on rebuilding Ukraine’s economy with Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko, at 10 a.m. 
  • The Wilson Center will host a discussion on “Russian War Crimes in Ukraine: Can Russia Be Held Accountable?” at 11 a.m. 
  • The Association of the U.S. Army will hear from Army Resilience Directorate head James Helis on the Army Integrated Prevention System and its efforts to combat suicide, sexual assault, sexual harassment and substance abuse, at 12 p.m. 
  • Booz Allen Hamilton will discuss “Cyber Resiliency for Tomorrow’s Space Missions,” at 12 p.m.  
  • A House Appropriations subcommittee will hold a hearing on National Guard and Reserve matters at 12 p.m. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today. Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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