Strategic ambiguity, which defined the U.S. position toward Taiwan and China’s claim on the island since the 1970s, is being redefined due to the changed circumstance of 2022. President Biden has been making clear on numerous occasions that the U.S. would defend Taiwan if China uses force against it. He is clearly presenting a more aggressive formulation of the commitment. And, Biden is not alone in recognizing Taiwan’s heightened importance as a central element in a free and open Indo-Pacific region and the impact of the Ukraine crisis in Asia. He was joined by his fellow Quad members – Japan, Australia and India. In a statement just issued after the latest Quad meeting, they said:
“In unprecedentedly strong language, the leaders of the Quad expressed opposition to coercive, provocative or unilateral actions that seek to change the status quo in the Indo-Pacific.” (Reuters) Japan’s new Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, offered: “Attempts to change the status quo by force, like Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, should never be tolerated in the Indo-Pacific, above all, in East Asia.” More specifically: “We will dramatically strengthen our military.”
The changed conditions are the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which shattered post-WWII norms of sovereignty, and the failure of Western deterrence. Arguably, Russian action in Georgia, Crimea and the Donbas were earlier indications that expectations and Western deterrence had already failed.
More importantly is China’s statements and behavior in the Indo-Pacific and specifically against the Western alliance. The Russia-China accord was a specific warning against any country or group of countries effort to resist China’s aggressive tactics. Very specifically, President Xi has stated that Taiwan’s independence must end soon. He has been backing that up with regular violations of Taiwan’s airspace with Chinese fighter jets and a massive build-up of military capability. U.S. defense officials believe the U.S. and its Pacific allies have 5 years or less to prepare.
|From left, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, U.S. President Joe |
Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister
Fumio Kishida arrive at the Quad leaders summit, May 24, 2022 | AP