December 08, 2021

Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Hearing on Future of U.S. Policy on Taiwan

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing on the future of U.S. policy on Taiwan. The committee heard witness testimony from the Honorable Daniel Kritenbrink, assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and the Honorable Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Well thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

“Tensions, as we all know, are high in the Taiwan Strait, and we all know why: China is taking increasingly aggressive actions to pressure Taiwan to unify. We are seeing more and more disinformation, political attacks, economic coercion, and military downright belligerence.

“I am glad this committee is holding this hearing at this critical time on Taiwan. As we increase the time, energy, and resources devoted to supporting this Indo-Pacific democracy, we need to be able to tell the American people why it’s so important.

“We also need more extensive discussions with civilian and military leaders, including in a classified setting, to properly engage on the issues at hand. I hope we can work together to hold classified briefings on Taiwan after the first of the year.

“A unilateral change in the status quo regarding Taiwan would not only threaten the security and liberty of 23 million Taiwanese, but also significantly damage vital U.S. interests and alliances in the Indo-Pacific.

“We would lose a model democracy at a time of creeping authoritarianism. It would give China a platform in the First Island Chain to dominate the Western Pacific, and threaten, indeed, the U.S. homeland. The consequences for Japan’s security, and therefore the U.S.-Japan alliance, are hard to overstate. Semiconductor supply chains would fall into China’s hands. And it would embolden China in other territorial disputes, including with India and in the South China Sea. Many U.S. allies and partners fear Taiwan would just be China’s first step. And China’s aggressive actions give us no reason to believe otherwise.

“To deter the Chinese Communist Party from coercing Taiwan, the United States must be laser-focused on concrete actions that put Taiwan in the best possible position to defend against the Chinese military.

“Last month, I introduced, as the chairman indicated, the Taiwan Deterrence Act with several colleagues. The bill authorizes $2 billion in foreign military financing for Taiwan every year through 2032. Such a program would accelerate Taiwan’s acquisition of asymmetric capabilities, and incentivize closer U.S.-Taiwan joint defense coordination.

I look forward to working with the chairman as he puts his bill forward and melding the two bills together. This is not, I’m sure the chairman would agree, a partisan matter. This is a matter that is important to all American people.

“I applaud President Tsai’s commitment to important defense reforms, defense reforms that we have been urging, including recent purchases of key capabilities and the planned establishment of an agency for civilian resilience. But more needs to be done to ensure the Taiwanese military fully implements her reform-minded vision.

“Close coordination with our executive and legislative branches is essential. The U.S. government should prioritize getting the right capabilities to Taiwan quickly and enhancing other important forms of defense engagement. If there’s a problem, the executive branch should tell Congress and we all need to fix it. We should be delivering the same messages on reform to our friends in Taiwan.

“What we do in the next two years is of great importance, but what we say also matters. I am deeply concerned by confused and varying statements on our Taiwan policy from high members in the current administration, including the president. This confusion demonstrates weakness, and weakness always invites more aggression.

“Our Taiwan policy has remained consistent, regardless of the false claims by Chinese leaders. U.S. policy towards Taiwan has always called for robust support for its defense. This is enshrined in the Taiwan Relations Act.

“There’s been much talk recently about U.S. policy regarding Taiwan, and I want to urge anyone, whether they’re friends or enemies, to read the Taiwan Relations Act. This is United States law. It is not a suggestion. It’s not a thought. It’s law that was put in place on January 1, 1979. It’s called the Taiwan Relations Act.

“It sets forth the policy of the United States regarding Taiwan. It is binding. It is the law. It is not a suggestion. It is a commitment to ourselves. It is a commitment to our allies. It’s a commitment to Taiwan. And, it’s a commitment to the world. I will quote very, very briefly from the act.

“In section two, subsection B-5, it says, ‘it is the policy of the United States to provide Taiwan with arms of a defensive character and it is the policy of the United States, in sub-section six, to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that could jeopardize the security of the social economic system of the people on Taiwan.’

“Section three goes on to say, in 3-A, ‘in furtherance of the policy set forth in section two of this act, the United States will makes available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity that may necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.’

“This is the law of America. This is the law that has been in place since January 1, 1979. So, any debate that is going on right now needs to start with this law. This is where we begin.

“In 1982, President Reagan wrote that the linkage between U.S. policy on arms sales to Taiwan and whether China pursues a peaceful resolution across the Taiwan Strait is a ‘permanent imperative of U.S. foreign policy.’

“Today, China sends large numbers of military aircraft into the Taiwan Strait for what they call ‘rehearsals’ for future operations, threatens to take ‘all necessary means’ to unify with Taiwan, and uses its economic might to punish countries that engage with Taiwan. These are not tenets of a peaceful resolution, which is what’s called for in the United States’ policy. These actions, coupled with China’s massive military build-up, create a very different geopolitical environment. 

“The United States must continue executing our longstanding Taiwan policy in a manner that matches today’s geopolitical realities.

“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.”

These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.

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