U.S. 'Critical' to Taiwan's 'Survival,' Envoy Says As China Eyes Military Takeover

The United States is "critical" to Taiwan's survival as a democracy on China's doorstep, the country's de facto ambassador to Washington said in an interview on Tuesday.

Washington's support for Taipei rose markedly during the Trump administration and has continued under President Joe Biden, Hsiao Bi-khim told Bloomberg Television. She said it was a "very critical time" for the U.S.-Taiwan relationship, which has been key to the island nation's continued survival "against all odds."

Despite palpable uncertainty in Taiwan surrounding Biden's continued support for the self-ruled island, which the Chinese government claims is part of its territory, his administration issued clear and early statements about the U.S.' "rock-solid" support for Taipei.

Biden administration officials, especially at the State Department, have also pushed back against Chinese coercion in the region, much of which is aimed at the Taiwanese government led by President Tsai Ing-wen.

"The security and the defense relationship with the United States is one of the most important relationships that we have. It is critical to Taiwan's continuing survival as a democracy," said Hsiao, who is the top envoy at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office.

She described Taiwan as being on the front line of China's "military, economic and political coercion." Similar concerns have remained a constant since Tsai was first elected to office in 2016, when cross-strait dialogue with Beijing effectively broke down.

As Beijing threatens to seize and "unify" the island of 23.5 million people—if necessary by force—Hsiao said democracy, freedom as well as the stability of the region were all at stake. Taiwan's survival, she noted, was in the interest of "multiple stakeholders," including the United States.

As top Biden officials prepare to meet with Xi Jinping's senior diplomats in Alaska on Thursday, the topic of Taiwan is expected to be discussed.

Taiwan has been on the agenda in U.S.-China relations because of Beijing's "aggressive gestures," which "threaten the stability and status quo of the region," Hsiao told Bloomberg.

Washington has urged the Chinese leadership to stop its pressure campaign against Taiwan and engage in meaningful dialogue instead.

Taiwan was prepared to hold cross-strait talks that "are not conditioned on political demands," Hsiao added, referring to Beijing's requirement that any dialogue be conducted on the basis of its one-China principle.

The precondition, which includes China's "one country, two systems" administrative model currently used in Hong Kong and Macau, has been roundly rejected by the public and both major parties in Taiwan.

An elected leader in Taiwan "cannot engage with discussions under the demand that we reject the popular will of the people of Taiwan," the ambassador said.

Although U.S. support for Taiwan is bipartisan and has continued across different administrations, Tsai's government is hoping the recent goodwill can help Taipei secure what would be a historic free trade agreement with Washington.

A trade deal would be a "signal of confidence" for businesses in both economies, allowing them to deepen their relationships with each other, said Hsiao.

The importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait in light of Chinese coercion was emphasized again on Tuesday when the U.S. and Japan put out a joint statement following their "2+2" meeting in Tokyo.

China's foreign ministry expressed "strong dissatisfaction and opposition" during Wednesday's daily press briefing in Beijing.

Spokesperson Zhao Lijian called the statement a "deliberate attack on China's foreign policy" and an interference in his country's "internal affairs," referring to Taiwan.

Beijing had lodged solemn representations to both the U.S. and Japan over the statement, said Zhao.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng welcomed the joint statement by U.S. and Japanese officials.

In a legislative hearing on Wednesday, Chiu said China was already capable of invading Taiwan, and that it was his goal to ensure the country was ready to react at all times.

Admiral Philip Davidson, head of United States Indo-Pacific Command, told a Senate committee last week that the Chinese military could launch an attack on Taiwan within six years.

President Joe Biden Speaks at White House
File photo: President Joe Biden speaks during remarks on the implementation of the American Rescue Plan in the State Dining room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on March 15, 2021. Taiwan's top representative to Washington, Hsiao Bi-khim, was invited to President Biden's inauguration in January. ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images