Taiwan should arm itself and follow Israel’s example. This was the suggestion from Kelly Craft, the former U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, in her keynote speech at the opening of the Asia-Pacific Security Dialogue organized in virtual format by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taipei.
Craft is a Republican diplomat who has worked under both George W. Bush and Donald Trump. In January, her planned trip to Taiwan was canceled at the last minute, shortly before Joe Biden took office.
In her speech, which lasted about 30 minutes, she did not spare some criticism towards the withdrawal from Afghanistan: “What has happened there has implications for us and for all of our friends, including our friends at the heart of democratic China … even if we step outside the Afghanistan narrative and look at this from an Asia perspective, we should be worried.” At the same time, she tried to reassure the Taiwanese: “I am here to assure you that [the Chinese propaganda is] wrong … I was proud to support our commitment to Taipei during the Trump administration, and as an American, I am proud to see the Biden administration continuing that policy … Without Taiwan, we lose the Pacific … If Taiwan is lost, we lose, too.”
In Craft’s view, who believes that the WHO has been acting as China’s “mouthpiece” and that the UN is an organization that has betrayed its origins, Taipei must continue on the path of arms purchases and collaborate on semiconductors by bringing part of the production of TSMC to the United States.
Accordingly, the example she explicitly gave in her speech was that of Israel, which can count on Washington’s support, but has also built up a high military capability (and willingness to use it) that is able to deter its enemies from attacking: “The United States is committed to Taiwan security, but there is no better guarantor of freedom than one’s own people … Taiwan too needs a military that is strong, confident, a first line of defense against external threats. Now is not a time for complacency,” Craft said. It was an echo of what President Tsai Ing-wen had also said in recent days about the need to not rely solely on “other people’s protection.”
The event was attended by diplomats, researchers and military personnel, mainly from the Quad countries (the U.S., Japan, Australia and India), but also from South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines. The different speeches showed different emphases, ranging from the strong Australian assertiveness to a more cautious Indian approach. In addition to the military aspect, the inclusion of Formosa in a new regional and global supply chain that would limit dependence on Beijing was also discussed. A significant element was the presence of Karen Makishima, a member of the Japanese House of Representatives and of the Liberal Democratic Party, who stressed that an invasion of Taiwan would represent an “existential threat” for Tokyo.
With only a few weeks to go before the general elections, the Japanese government has partially abandoned its traditional caution on issues related to China. For the first time, Taiwan was mentioned in the annual defense report, as the Japanese Defense Minister formally requested a budget of more than $49 billion for 2022. This is a record figure for Japan, which aims to shore up the defenses of the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and counter the Chinese fleet in the East China Sea.
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