Congressional Republicans are spearheading an effort to fast-track U.S. weapons shipments to Taiwan amid growing concerns Communist China is planning to start "a war of aggression," Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.) told the Washington Free Beacon.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has emboldened the CCP, which took steps earlier this week to strengthen bilateral ties with Moscow to help it combat Western economic sanctions. With the two malign regimes displaying a united front, Republican lawmakers want to send a clear message that America will come to Taiwan’s aid if Beijing launches an invasion.
The Biden administration also is closely monitoring the situation, with a State Department official telling the Free Beacon on Thursday that U.S. officials remain "concerned about China's alignment with Russia."
Banks, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Biden administration was caught off guard by Russia’s incursion, proving that "you can’t deter an invasion after it happens." China is learning lessons from its Russian ally, fueling concerns that Beijing will make good on its threats to invade Taiwan sooner rather than later. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin raised the prospect of a Chinese attack on Taiwan during a speech over the weekend, saying, "We will defend our interests without flinching."
"China breached Taiwan’s airspace a record number of times in 2021," Banks told the Free Beacon. "House Republicans can’t let Joe Biden repeat the same mistakes he made in Ukraine. You can’t deter an invasion after it happens and Congress and the Biden administration should be entirely unified around the need to send Taiwan defensive weaponry to dissuade Xi from starting a war of aggression."
Banks, who has repeatedly pressed the Biden administration in multiple forums to "unequivocally and publicly" commit to defending Taiwan in the event of an invasion, said the Taiwan Weapons Exports Act would serve as a central legislative vehicle to deter Beijing.
It would boost Taiwan’s trade standing to make it a central U.S. ally in the same way that NATO members like Japan and South Korea are, according to a full copy of the bill provided to the Free Beacon. It also would expedite licensing approval for weapons shipments to Taiwan and remove other administrative barriers that could slow the process. The measure also cuts in half the amount of time these types of weapons deals are reviewed by Congress, making it easier for military equipment to actually arrive in Taiwan.
A Senate companion version of the bill is being spearheaded by Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.).
The Republican Study Committee, which is helmed by Banks, also is using its 2023 budget proposal to increase U.S. commitments to Taiwan. Under the RSC’s proposal, the U.S. would accelerate lethal aid to Taiwan, including stinger missiles, naval strike missiles, and quick strike air-dropped sea mine—all of which could be used if China launches an attack.
Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping spoke by phone on Wednesday to reaffirm relations in the face of Western sanctions. Xi reportedly "noted the legitimacy" of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, claiming that Moscow is protecting its "fundamental national interests in the face of challenges to its security created by external forces."
Russia and China inked a cooperation agreement in February and both countries have said the deal contains "no limits" on their partnership.
The State Department says it sees through China’s claims of neutrality on the Russian war.
The U.S. and European partners have already "warned China against providing Russia military assistance" and continue to closely monitor Beijing’s actions, according to the State Department.
"More than three months into Russia's brutal invasion, China is still standing by Russia," the official said. "It is still echoing Russian propaganda around the world. It is still shielding Russia in international organizations, shirking its responsibilities as a P5 member. And it is still denying Russia's atrocities in Ukraine by suggesting instead that they were staged."
Both countries are believed to be boosting their economic infrastructure to "bypass SWIFT," the international banking system, as well as "U.S. and European sanctions," according to the official. These efforts have been accompanied by military drills, most recently a joint bomber patrol in East Asia.
"Nations that side with Vladimir Putin will inevitably find themselves on the wrong side of history," the State Department official said. "This is not a moment for equivocation or hiding or waiting to see what happens next. It is already clear what is happening."