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: U.S. must ensure Taiwan ‘has the means to defend itself’ from China invasion, Secretary of State Blinken says

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the U.S. will act to ensure that Taiwan can defend itself from a possible invasion by China in an interview at the New York Times Dealbook conference on Wednesday.

“We have commitments, longstanding commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act, to make sure that Taiwan has the means to defend itself,” Blinken said. “The purpose here is never to get to that point where anyone is actually trying to disrupt the status quo by force and to make sure that…no one engages in actions that could be disruptive and dangerous to world peace and security.”

Blinken would not elaborate on what specific role the U.S. would take in the case of an invasion of Taiwan by China, and whether it would involve committing U.S. troops to the cause.

The Taiwan Relations Act was signed into law in 1979 following America’s recognition of the communist government in Beijing, replacing a mutual defense treaty the U.S. had with the Taiwanese government since 1955. The U.S. has maintained a stance of “strategic ambiguity” with respect to Taiwan, which the government in Beijing sees as a part of the People’s Republic of China.

The equivocal stance toward Taiwan enables the U.S. to refrain from provoking hawks in the Chinese government, while implying that an invasion of the island could spark a global conflict.

“We’re so much more effective in dealing with whatever challenge China imposes when we’re working closely with allies and partners,” Blinken said. “There are many countries in both the region and beyond that would see any unilateral action to use force to disrupt the status quo as a significant threat to peace and security.”

The U.S. has about 30 active duty troops on the island of Taiwan, including 23 Marines, along with 15 Pentagon civilians, according to a Monday report in Foreign Policy magazine. The U.S. does not officially recognize its military presence on the island, though Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen acknowledged them in a recent interview with CNN.

In October, The Wall Street Journal revealed that the contingent of Marines was involved in training small units of Taiwan’s ground forces, possibly in preparation for an amphibious assault on the island by mainland China.

Heino Klinck, who served as the Pentagon’s top East Asia official until January, told Foreign Policy Magazine that “conventional systems are not going to deter the Chinese” from invading the island. Instead, Taiwan will need to engage in a strategy of insurgency to repel a Chinese takeover.

What will deter the Chinese is this porcupine strategy of even if you try to swallow us, you’re not going to be able to digest us, because you’re going to be fighting beyond the littorals, beyond the beaches,” he said. “You will have to fight for every square block in Taiwan.”

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