AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis
In response to a reporter’s question in Tokyo on Monday, President Joe Biden vowed to defend Taiwan if it were attacked militarily by China. In an embarrassing kowtow to Beijing, the White House immediately issued a statement walking back Biden’s declaration, leaving Taiwan in a more precarious security situation than if he had not said anything at all. But even more ominously for the island’s future was the action taken by Biden just hours earlier to abandon Taiwan to Chinese pressure by leaving Taiwan out of the new Indo-Pacific trade deal.
During a meeting with the leaders of Australia, India, and Japan on Monday, Biden announced a new trade pact with 12 nations called the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.” Together, the countries included in the pact account for 40% of the world’s GPD.
The plan comprises four pillars aimed at strengthening trade ties in the region in response to China’s growing influence: trade and supply chain stability; clean energy, de-carbonization, and infrastructure; common tax rules; and anti-corruption measures. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the framework is focused around “the further integration of Indo-Pacific economies, setting of standards and rules, particularly in new areas like the digital economy, and also trying to ensure that there are secure and resilient supply chains.”
But noticeably absent from the plan is Taiwan, yet another move by the Biden administration that signals weakness instead of strength toward the Chinese Communist Party. Confronted by a journalist on the flight to South Korea, Sullivan admitted that “Taiwan will not be part of the launch.”
This news comes after more than 50 Senators and 200 Members of Congress penned letters to the White House urging Biden to include Taiwan in the agreement. Yet for the President, warnings from Chinese Communist Party leaders to leave Taiwan out must have carried more weight.
For the Taiwanese, the Biden administration’s evident willingness to abide by Beijing’s dictates must be disheartening indeed. On the day Biden landed in Seoul to kick off his tour of Asia, the Chinese military breached Taiwan’s early defense identification zone with fourteen aircraft capable of deploying electronic and anti-submarine weaponry. Although similar incursions are by now common, this latest incident was one of the largest to date.
Biden’s weakness in regard to Taiwan may also have implications elsewhere in the South Pacific. Last week, for example, it became known that Beijing had made efforts to negotiate security deals with other island nations following a pact with the Solomon Islands last month that left U.S. leaders concerned.
One of those nations, Kiribati, is just 1,860 miles away from Pacific Central Command in Hawaii, well within striking range of Chinese planes and missiles. Earlier this month, Reuters reported that China had finalized plans to modernize an airstrip and bridge on the island.
China’s mounting aggression is a marked shift from the Trump years, when Beijing was largely kept in check by real action aimed at checking Chinese power. After pulling the U.S. out of the Obama-era Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017, Trump recalibrated the U.S. strategy in the region toward slowing China’s economic ascendency, while also recognizing that trade deals negotiated by earlier administrations had left the U.S. in an economically vulnerable position. He correctly surmised that an economically stronger United States would mean more reliable security assurances for both the U.S. and its allies like Taiwan.
In 2020, Trump also signed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative Act, aimed and helping strengthen Taiwan’s diplomatic ties with other countries in the region while also restricting U.S. engagement with nations that undermine the security or prosperity of Taiwan. The move was one of the most concrete by any recent president to provide security assurances to Taiwan and send a clear message to Beijing.
Now, however, the Biden administration appears to be allowing Beijing to set the limits of the U.S. involvement in the South Pacific. No doubt emboldened by U.S. failures elsewhere – most notably the debacle in Afghanistan – the Chinese Communist Party feels it has little to fear from the current U.S. President. This perception was likely only reaffirmed when the White House affirmed the so-called “One China” policy in its walk back Monday of Biden’s promise of military aid to Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.
The Biden administration can continue to say that it is prioritizing U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific and countering Chinese aggression. But those words appear increasingly empty as, when it comes time for action, they capitulate to Chinese demands.
Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian and researcher.
We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...
Support AMAC Action. Our 501 (C)(4) advances initiatives on Capitol Hill, in the state legislatures, and at the local level to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, and the rule of law.Donate Now