US sees ‘urgent’ need to boost Taiwan defenses, official says
The United States sees an “urgent” need to bolster defenses in Taiwan amid worrying signals that China wants to take over the island by force, according to a top Pentagon official in Asia.
Ely Ratner, the assistant secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Wednesday that China is likely preparing to “unify” Taiwan under the People’s Republic of China. He called the threat “real and dangerous.”
“Bolstering Taiwan’s defenses is an urgent task,” Ratner said. “We are modernizing our capabilities, updating U.S. force posture and developing new operational concepts.”
Taiwan has been a self-governing island since 1949, when China’s nationalist government fled there during the country’s civil war, but Beijing has recently increased its presence in the Taiwan Strait with aircraft flyovers.
The U.S. has stepped up its public support for Taiwan in recent months, which has angered China. Biden invited the country to a summit for democracy, and a bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers met with the Taiwanese president over the Thanksgiving weekend.
The American government has provided more than $32 billion to Taiwan in arms deals since 2009 and will continue to sell weapons to the country, according to officials at the Senate hearing. Ratner said the Defense Department is also encouraging Taiwan to step up its own defenses.
Still, China’s growing aggression is worrying for Taiwan’s citizens, Ratner added.
“Let me be clear: This is an absolute priority,” he said.