US defense secretary pledges continued arms sales to Taiwan

Mark Esper promises 'We will live up to our commitments to Taiwan'

Mark Esper. (Facebook, U.S. Secretary of Defense photo)

Mark Esper. (Facebook, U.S. Secretary of Defense photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — American Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Tuesday (July 21) reiterated the U.S.' commitment to selling weapons to Taiwan so it can defend itself from an increasingly belligerent China.

During an interview with the International Institute for Strategic Studies on Tuesday, Esper expressed that based on China's actions in Hong Kong, people in Taiwan have no faith that Beijing will honor its promises regarding the tattered "one country, two systems" model. He then reaffirmed his country's commitment to continuing arms sales to Taiwan and carrying out freedom of navigation exercises in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea.

When asked about the U.S. commitment to Taiwan's defense, Esper said that People's Liberation Army (PLA) activities in the region are destabilizing and "increase the risk of miscalculation." He pointed out that the Chinese government has violated previous treaty commitments on multiple occasions, including in Hong Kong.

Esper recalled how China in 1997 had pledged to honor Hong Kong's Basic Law and implement the "one country, two systems" framework in the semi-autonomous region. However, in the aftermath of the draconian new national security law imposed on Hong Kong, he noted that "I don't think anybody in Taiwan believes that at this point China has any intention whatsoever of living up to its 'one country, two systems.'"

The secretary of defense emphasized that U.S. policy has been consistent since the passage of the Taiwan Relations Act in 1979. Esper then noted that in 1982, the Reagan administration established a policy of selling weapons to Taiwan "based entirely on the threat posed by the PRC."

Esper warned that China's military policy has become increasingly aggressive and observed that the PLA has "hundreds if not a thousand missiles aimed at Taiwan." He said that Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping (習近平) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have "taken this to a new level."

He emphasized that the U.S. remains committed to regional peace and security, saying, "We will live up to our commitments to Taiwan, which is all in the interest of a secure and stable region." "We will continue to conduct arms sales," he pledged.

Esper added that the U.S. will also continue to carry out freedom of navigation operations, "and that includes the Taiwan Strait." He mentioned that the country. had recently staged such an operation, possibly in reference to exercises carried out earlier this month by the aircraft carriers USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan in the South China Sea.

He then blamed China for "aggravating the situation vis-à-vis Taiwan and more broadly in the region." However, Esper also extended an olive branch to the regime in Beijing by saying he hoped to visit China before the end of the year "in order to enhance cooperation on areas of common interest, establish the systems necessary for crisis communications, and reinforce our intentions to openly compete in the international system in which we all belong."

The full interview can be seen below:

Updated : 2021-01-27 19:21 GMT+08:00