TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Pentagon spokesman on Thursday (Jan. 28) described China's threat of war with Taiwan over independence as "unfortunate" and said he could not understand why tensions over Taiwan would lead to a confrontation.
On Saturday (Jan. 23), the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) flew 13 planes over Taiwan's air identification defense zone (ADIZ), including one Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, four J-16 fighter jets, and eight H-6K bombers. This was followed the next day by an intrusion into the ADIZ by 15 military aircraft, including two Y-8 anti-submarine planes, two SU-30 fighter jets, six J-10 jet fighters, four J-16s, and one Y-8 reconnaissance plane.
During a press conference on Thursday, Chinese Defense Ministry Spokesman Wu Qian (吴谦) claimed that recent incursions into Taiwan's ADIZ were necessary to "safeguard national sovereignty and security" and were a "solemn response to external interference and provocations by 'Taiwan independence.'" He warned that Taiwan independence elements "who play with fire will burn themselves" and threatened that "'Taiwan independence' means war."
As Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby was trying to wrap up a press conference that same day in Washington and was attempting to leave, a reporter managed to slip in two last-minute questions. He first asked Kirby to respond to Wu's threat of war over Taiwan independence, and his second question sought the Pentagon's views on the strategic importance of Taiwan.
Answering the second question first, Kirby said that nothing had changed the Pentagon's commitments to the Taiwan Relations Act and Three Communiqués with China. He emphasized there has been bipartisan support for these commitments for decades and that this will continue under Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
He acknowledged that the U.S. has obligations to aid Taiwan in its defense and added, "I think you're going to see that continue."
In response to the first question, Kirby said the Pentagon "sees no reason why tensions over Taiwan need to lead to anything like a confrontation." He then characterized Wu's comment as "unfortunate" and not in line with the U.S.' intentions and obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act.
He emphasized that Blinken will "look for ways where we can cooperate with China" while at the same time meeting American obligations to Taiwan.
Just as Kirby was preparing to step away from the podium, another reporter called out: "Is the U.S. ready and capable of defending Taiwan against a potential China invasion?" Kirby smirked and said that he did not want to get into hypotheticals but reiterated: "The United States remains ready in all respects to meet our security commitments in the region."