TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday (Nov. 16) reiterated Washington’s commitment to providing weapons to Taiwan and said that the latest summit between President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) will not impact such arms sales.
At the sidelines of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Plus conference, Austin was cited by Nikkei Asia as saying, "With the Taiwan Relations Act, we are committed to doing what's necessary to help Taiwan acquire the means to defend itself." He went on to say that in his opinion nothing that the two leaders discussed at the summit "would cause that to move in a different direction."
On Wednesday (Nov. 15), Biden and Xi met for four hours on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in San Francisco, during which they agreed to resume dialogue on defense. In response, Austin on Thursday said that he was "encouraged" by the news that military-to-military communications are to be resumed.
Austin added, "There is no substitute for consistent and substantive dialogue between senior leaders." He then vowed to continue to pursue pragmatic discussion with China "from the senior leader level to the working level."
Austin pointed out that even as the war in Ukraine rages on, he continues to talk to Russia's defense minister and said that this exemplifies an aspect that must be maintained in the future to manage the crises. He suggested that the U.S. and China follow the U.S.-Russian model and establish a communication mechanism in the event of conflict.
Although he expressed his support for the agreements reached between Biden and Xi, he said that the U.S. will remain alert to the threats posed by China. He also labeled Beijing's unilateral change in the Taiwan Strait status quo as "undesirable" and expressed concern that any conflict that breaks out would not only impact the region but the "entire world."
Austin pointed out that the U.S. continues to accelerate the delivery of weapons to Taiwan. While the U.S. assesses China's ability to invade Taiwan, he said the Biden administration is working to resolve the backlog in arms sales and deliveries to Taiwan.
Xi was cited by China's state-run mouthpiece Xinhua as saying in the meeting with Biden that the U.S. should "honor its commitment of not supporting 'Taiwan independence,' stop arming Taiwan, and support China's peaceful reunification."