After Russia Invades Ukraine, China Says U.S. Support for Taiwan 'Futile'

American support for Taiwan will be in vain, a Chinese government spokesperson has said, as a delegation of former U.S. officials landed in Taipei on Tuesday—a move seen as President Joe Biden's way of reassuring the island nation's public following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Taiwan has been awash with news about Vladimir Putin's bloody military operation against Kyiv for six consecutive days.

Observers the world over were quick to predict that China's President Xi Jinping would soon attempt the same against Taiwan, which Beijing has claimed for more than 70 years, and about which successive Chinese leaders have created mythologies not dissimilar to those believed in the Kremlin about Ukraine.

"The will of the Chinese people to defend our national sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering," China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a daily press briefing.

"Whoever the United States sends to show so-called support for Taiwan will be futile."

Washington should handle the subject of Taiwan "prudently," he said, "so as not to further seriously undermine China-U.S. relations on the whole."

Biden's delegation is led by Mike Mullen, one-time chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. With him are former senior defense officials Meghan O'Sullivan, Michele Flournoy, as well as ex-national security advisers Mike Green and Evan Medeiros.

They landed at Taipei's Songshan Airport just after 4 p.m. local time.

They are scheduled to meet Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, her national security staff, and Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng on Wednesday.

U.S. officials who told Reuters about the visit beforehand didn't explicitly link the trip to ongoing hostilities in Ukraine and Washington's need to show resolve in Asia, but said the move was to demonstrate the Biden administration's "rock solid" support for Taiwan.

Speaking in parliament ahead of the delegation's arrival, Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told lawmakers that Taipei was notified of the visit "a day or two" after Putin ordered Russian forces across the border into Kyiv-held territory.

Other senior officials, including Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang, said they welcomed the display of solitary from the U.S. Wu later met the group on the tarmac.

Before the high-level visit was announced, however, the U.S. had already signaled its priorities in the Indo-Pacific by sailing a U.S. Navy warship through the Taiwan Strait on February 26, around 48 hours after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began.

Wang, the Chinese spokesperson, called the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson as piece of "scrap metal" and the American military presence a "gimmick."

Joe Biden Signals Taiwan Support Against China
Taiwanese soldiers operate a home-made CM-32 clouded leopard armored vehicle during a demonstration at an army base in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on January 6, 2022. In the days after Russia launched a military invasion against Ukraine, the administration of President Joe Biden has found ways to signal its support for Taiwan against possible similar moves by China. SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images

The Mullen-led delegation is the second dispatched to Taiwan by President Biden, who also sent a group of former senators to the island last April. Also on Wednesday, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his chief China adviser, Miles Yu, are both due in Taipei for their own four-day visit in their capacity as private citizens.

At an event hosted by the German Marshal Fund think tank on Monday, the White House's Indo-Pacific coordinator, Kurt Campbell, said the U.S. would need to operate in both the European and Pacific theaters, as it had done during World War II and the Cold War.

"It's difficult. It's expensive. But it is also essential, and I believe that we're entering a period where that is what will be demanded of the United States and this generation of Americans," he said, and insisted that it wouldn't mean less attention on Asia.

"There is a deep recognition and intention here inside the government, in the White House, to sustain every element of our engagement in the Indo-Pacific," said Campbell, who believed it was too early to tell what conclusions China had drawn from the first few days of conflict in Eastern Europe.

Campbell said Moscow's "brutality" in Ukraine had placed Beijing at an "awkward nexus" because of its deep association with Russia.

He confirmed reports that said the Biden administration had warned the Chinese leadership about Putin's intentions well in advance, believing Beijing could play a "critical role" in encouraging the increasingly isolated Russian president to reconsider his options.

"We believe they chose not to weigh in in advance in this way," he said.