Expect a Chinese show of force against Taiwan soon, says INDOPACOM head

by Braxton Taylor

HONOLULU, Hawaii—China is likely to demonstrate “force against Taiwan in the near term” because of the recent election, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said—and they will probably blame the United States.  

“The pressure campaign against Taiwan continues, and we’re watching it in the wake of the elections,” Adm. John Aquilino said Tuesday at a conference hosted by the Pacific Forum.

“Their actions over the past number of years have been pretty consistent. When something occurs that they don’t like, they tend to take actions,” Aquilino said, noting that China increased its military harassment after then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited the island in 2022.

China is “clearly not happy,” and the U.S. should “not be surprised” if they “attempt to spin it in the information space as the United States as the aggressor,” he said. “I don’t know how you connect those dots, but they’re pretty effective in the information space. Doesn’t have to be true. They’ve just got to say it enough times.”

On Saturday, Taiwan elected as president a candidate from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, in a blow to China’s attempts to more closely control the island. President Biden said after the election that he does not support independence for Taiwan.

Three days later, the State Department’s Mira Resnick told Defense One the administration’s position has not changed.

The U.S. wants to ensure “peace in the Taiwan Strait, that there is security for Taiwan, and security in the United States,” said Resnick, the deputy assistant secretary for regional security in the bureau of political-military affairs. To that end, the U.S. has worked to “both speed [foreign military sales] items to Taiwan that they need, and to make sure that we’re carving out from our own resources… grant assistance that can be useful to Taiwan, which is something we’ve never done before.”

In a conflict, “Taiwan will need to have things that are already positioned on island, so we are looking to make sure that Taiwan has what it needs and that they will continue to have what they need in any sort of contingency,” she said.

Regarding the elections, Aquilino said the U.S. and its allies and partners must “understand what should come, we should expect it,” but we should also “push back against mis- and disinformation.”

And, he said, U.S. and “like-minded nations” must be cognizant of the fact that China’s “expansive claims in the South China Sea are not just thought anymore. What we are seeing as it applies to Second Thomas Shoal and our Philippine partners is that the rhetoric and the actions, whether they be lawfare, information warfare, or physical actions, they are now enforcing or attempting to enforce that illegal claim.”

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