A top Pentagon official for China policy refused to answer when asked Tuesday by Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin whether he agreed with President Joe Biden’s assertion that economic woes would discourage a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
Biden said on Sept. 10 he did not see an invasion coming soon amid intelligence that Beijing will decide whether to attempt armed “reunification” with the democratically-ruled island by 2027. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Biden administration’s deterrence policy in Taiwan with witnesses from the Department of Defense (DOD), the Joint Staff and the State Department, Gallagher, who chairs the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, questioned whether DOD agreed with that assessment.
“We are focused on strengthening combat-credible deterrence,” Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific policy, responded. (RELATED: Pentagon, State Department Officials Say Continuing Aid To Ukraine Will Deter China)
“You don’t have a view? You’re the China expert in the building,” Gallagher said. “Do you have a view on whether China’s economic difficulties [make china]more or less aggressive militarily, which I would argue is directly relevant to the question of how do we defend against such an invasion?”
Ratner then said he would be willing to give a more detailed answer in a classified setting in order to incorporate the sensitive information to which the DOD has access.
“I don’t think this is going to cause China to invade Taiwan,” Biden said, referring to China’s recent economic “crisis,” on Sept. 10 following a recent meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the annual G20 summit in New Delhi, according to Reuters.
“As a matter of fact, the opposite, probably doesn’t have the same capacity that it had before,” he added.
The Biden administration’s decision to provide $55 million in foreign military financing to Taiwan is a pittance compared to Taiwan’s enormous needs for self-defense and the United States’ clear national interest in supporting Taipei.
— Senator Roger Wicker (@SenatorWicker) September 18, 2023
“What is our end state with respect to China if it’s not containment?” Gallagher asked.
Ratner repeated an oft-highlighted administration policy to maintain integrated deterrence in the Indo-Pacific working alongside allies and partners.
Biden has also warned about the “existential” threat of global warming, reflected in the 2022 National Defense Strategy that singles out climate change as a long-term challenge while identifying China as DOD’s immediate “pacing” threat.
“That’s what we’re focused on as our priority at the department,” Ratner said.
“I think the question of prioritization matters greatly because there are some who suggest we need to cooperate with China when it comes to climate change,” Gallagher said.
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