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US would 'intervene more deeply' in war in Taiwan Strait than Ukraine: NSB head

'We are not weak chickens waiting here and doing nothing' says Chen Ming-tong

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U.S. Marines take part in multinational exercise in Egypt in 2005. 

U.S. Marines take part in multinational exercise in Egypt in 2005.  (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The National Security Bureau (NSB) director told legislators Monday (March 28) that the U.S. would be much more involved in a war in the Taiwan Strait than it has been in Ukraine because it prioritizes the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).

During a meeting of the Legislative Yuan's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee that morning, NSB Director-General Chen Ming-tong (陳明通) provided a report titled "National Intelligence Work and National Security Agency Operations" and fielded inquiries from lawmakers. Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) asked Chen whether China would be emboldened or more cautious in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Chen responded that China would be more cautious because although the U.S. has not become directly involved in the war in Ukraine for fear of sparking World War III with Russia, it is nevertheless providing aid through the "Common Data Link and other telecommunications systems," despite the fact it does not have a legally binding obligation to defend Ukraine. He asserted that a key difference is that the Biden administration has put the TRA at the forefront of its policy on the Taiwan Strait.

The NSB director said that although some say that the TRA is a U.S. domestic law, "no matter what the law is, as long as there is a legal basis, it can be acted on." Therefore, Chen argued that this sends a strong signal to China that "Even though there is no Ukraine Relations Act, (the U.S.) can still intervene in this way, and with the Taiwan Relations Act the U.S. will intervene even more deeply."

DPP lawmaker Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) stressed that Taiwan should not wait until China attacks to set up communication protocols such as the Common Data Link and asked whether there is intelligence-sharing currently taking place between the U.S., Taiwan, and Japan. Chen said that he could only provide that information in a closed-door meeting.

Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Wen Yu-hsia (溫玉霞) pointed out that the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command head, Admiral John Aquilino, had said last week that China considers taking over Taiwan its "No. 1 priority" and asked Chen for his assessment on the possibility of such an invasion. Chen said that the war between Russia and Ukraine is showing China that a full-scale invasion will be difficult and that if it attacks, it would have to be "absolutely comprehensive." The odds of China making a move right now are low, he said.

Chen said that "the lesson Ukraine has given to Beijing is that war cannot be taken lightly." Therefore, China will review Russia's shortcomings in Ukraine in order to improve the People's Liberation Army (PLA), said Chen.

Based on Chen's assessment of the situation, Russia performed poorly during the invasion of Ukraine because it was not ready. Therefore, China will be very cautious about using force and Taiwan will draw lessons from the Ukraine war on how to improve its defenses, he said.

He added that while China is enhancing its offensive capabilities, Taiwan is strengthening its defenses. "We are not weak chickens waiting here and doing nothing," said Chen, going on to predict that China will not attack Taiwan during President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) remaining years in office.