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Defense & National Security — Taiwan welcomes further visits from U.S. officials

FILE – In this photo released by the Taiwan Presidential Office, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, and Taiwanese President President Tsai Ing-wen wave during a meeting in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. The U.S. government has announced talks with Taiwan, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022, on a trade treaty in a new sign of support for the self-ruled island democracy claimed by China’s ruling Communist Party as part of its territory. The announcement comes after Beijing launched military drills in an attempt to intimidate the island after Pelosi’s visit. (Taiwan Presidential Office via AP, File)

Taiwan’s highest-ranking official in the Unites States is welcoming further visits to the independent island from U.S. officials despite China’s recent aggressive moves.

We’ll share the official’s exclusive conversation with The Hill and take a look at Ukraine issuing warnings regarding Russia’s shelling around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Also, what message does Moscow’s movement of high-tech missiles to its western-most Baltic province send?

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.

Taiwan’s envoy to the US welcomes further visits

Taiwan’s highest-ranking official in the Unites States said China’s aggressive behavior in response to visits by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other U.S. officials will only draw the island closer to its allies.

“The more they bully us, the more we need friends,” Bi-khim Hsiao said in an interview with The Hill on Wednesday, just hours before the U.S. and Taiwan announced plans to formally begin trade negotiations early this fall.

Not shy: Hsiao, Taiwan’s representative to the U.S., isn’t shying away from the trips even though China has answered them with military drills and angry rhetoric. In fact, she welcomes more.

“We are very concerned and worried about China’s provocative, reckless, and irresponsible actions that are extremely dangerous,” Hsiao said. 

“But then again, as a victim of their bullying, we’re not going to go out and say, ‘We don’t want friends. Stop visiting us.’”

Some context: Hsiao’s remarks punctuated weeks of heightened tensions between the U.S. and China over Pelosi’s trip. The Speaker became the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan in more than two decades earlier in August, and that trip was followed by five-member bipartisan delegation to Taiwan earlier this week. 

The visits have demonstrated U.S. support for Taiwan in the face of rising threats from China. 

Beijing has reacted by staging military drills around Taiwan, moving to suspend cooperation with the U.S. on climate change and other issues and slapping sanctions on Taiwanese officials, including Hsiao. 

‘Will not be silenced’: “If they think sanctions will restrict our pursuit of international space or stifle our voices, they are wrong,” Hsiao told The Hill. “We will not be silenced by these sanctions.”

She argued that China with its actions has inspired more international support for Taiwan. 

Unintended consequences: “They are the ones that are stirring up a lot of attention and they are also, ironically, promoting greater sympathy and interest in visiting Taiwan from the international community, and China needs to be held accountable for their own behavior,” Hsiao said. 

“It’s a constant struggle for us to be seen and heard and have a presence internationally,” Hsiao added. “By trying to suffocate our international space, China is actually prompting an even greater desire of the Taiwanese people to have these friends.”

Read the full interview here

Also from The Hill:

Zelensky asks U.N. to secure Russian nuclear plant

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blasted Russia on Thursday for shelling around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, calling on the United Nations to secure the site.

Zelensky’s comments come as Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for shelling the Russian-operated plant in southern Ukraine. The conflict has heightened fears of a nuclear disaster.

Potential for ‘catastrophic consequences’: “This deliberate terror on the part of the aggressor can have global catastrophic consequences for the whole world,” the Ukrainian president said. “Therefore, the U.N. must ensure the security of this strategic site, its demilitarization and complete liberation from Russian troops.”

Zelensky also warned earlier this week that the situation at the nuclear site could develop into a catastrophe if the plant is not properly defended and that the “consequences may also hit those who remain silent so far.”

A tentative plan: Zelensky and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres agreed Thursday for a group from the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit the plant, though it was not immediately clear if Russia would submit to the arrangement. Zelensky asked Guterres to secure the safety of the plant and execute its demilitarization.

Read the full story here

Russia moves hypersonic missiles west

Russia announced Thursday that it has deployed aircraft armed with hypersonic missiles to its westernmost region along the Baltic Sea, The Associated Press reported.

Moscow’s Defense Ministry said three MiG-31 fighters and Kinzhal hypersonic missiles arrived at the Chkalovsk air base in Kaliningrad, the capital of the Russian province of the same name which sits between Poland and Lithuania along the Baltic coast. 

A message to the West: The armaments were moved to the region as part of “additional measures of strategic deterrence,” with the warplanes to be on round-the-clock alert, the Defense Ministry said, as reported by AP.

A video released by the Russian military showed the MiG-31s arriving in Kaliningrad but not holding missiles, thought to be delivered separately.

About the missiles: The Kinzhal missiles – which Moscow has used to strike several targets in Ukraine already — have a range of up to roughly 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) and can fly at 10 times the speed of sound, according to Russian officials. 

Timing: The weapons’ movement to Kaliningrad comes as Russia continues its nearly six-month attack on Ukraine, though its forces struggle to make any major gains in recent weeks as it focuses on the eastern part of the country.

The deployment also appears to send a message to NATO as the Russian province is sandwiched between alliance members Poland and Lithuania, where U.S. troops are currently deployed should the war in Ukraine threaten to spill across borders.

Read that story here

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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