“Prioritizing” weapons transfers to Ukraine instead of Taiwan increases the risk of war with China, Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley warned the Biden administration in a letter Tuesday.
The Biden administration’s push to arm Ukraine has drawn resources and funding from Taiwan, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, sparking concern regarding the U.S.’ ability to meet defense commitments to a major Indo-Pacific ally. Hawley warned that a lapse in U.S. weapons assistance could signal weakness and embolden China to invade the island.
China appears positioned to attack Taiwan in the near future, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in October, noting that Beijing has accelerated its timeline and redoubled commitments to “reunification.”
The U.S. cannot delay in arming Taiwan, Hawley argued. “It will be exceedingly difficult to deliver weapons to Taiwan after a contingency begins due to Taiwan’s susceptibility to Chinese blockade,” he said.
“Moreover, the whole purpose of sending weapons now is to deter any conflict. Waiting jeopardizes this goal,” he continued.
While the U.S. weapons deliveries to Taiwan had slowed significantly prior to the Ukraine war, a symptom of pandemic-related supply chain issues, increased efforts to arm Ukraine may have exacerbated the problem, government and congressional officials told the WSJ. Taiwan suffers from a nearly $19 billion backlog as defense contractors must meet foreign orders and increased demand to replenish U.S. stocks.
Hawley asked the administration whether those systems would be better prioritized for Taiwan.
U.S. officials have pointed out that much of the nearly $20 billion in weapons sent to Ukraine comes from existing U.S. stores, while Taiwan has ordered new systems straight from the production lines, the WSJ reported.
“Regardless of the weapons’ source, if both Taiwan and Ukraine need them, they should go to Taiwan first,” Hawley said.
The U.S. has proposed sending up to 100 advanced Patriot air defense systems to Taiwan, according to Bloomberg. In addition, Congress is debating ways to expedite weapons deliveries to Taiwan and wants to approve up to $10 billion in weapons financing and $1 billion for equipment from existing U.S. stockpiles, Defense News reported.
What @HawleyMO is calling for in genuinely prioritizing Asia is a) manifestly correct and b) actually ***the Biden team’s own stated defense strategy***. The Biden Administration specifically states in its NDS that China and Asia must be the priority. 1/https://t.co/FLpbleFh7n
— Elbridge Colby (@ElbridgeColby) December 6, 2022
Both the White House and Congress have emphasized China as the foremost geopolitical threat to the U.S. and favor arming Taiwan.
“Your administration, however, is doing the reverse. You are prioritizing arms to Ukraine over our vital security interests in Asia. This is not a tenable position,” Hawley said.
The White House signaled concerns that upcoming congressional legislation could undermine the U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” regarding whether it would come to Taiwan’s defense in the event of a Chinese invasion.
“We should be clear: Taiwan is more important for U.S. national interests than Ukraine,” Hawley wrote.
The Pentagon, State Department and White House did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.