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Politics Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan

02:50  23 october  2021
02:50  23 october  2021 Source:   thehill.com

Taiwan tensions raise fears of US-China conflict in Asia

  Taiwan tensions raise fears of US-China conflict in Asia BANGKOK (AP) — After sending a record number of military aircraft to harass Taiwan over China’s National Day holiday, Beijing has toned down the saber rattling but tensions remain high, with the rhetoric and reasoning behind the exercises unchanged. Experts agree a direct conflict is unlikely at the moment, but as the future of self-ruled Taiwan increasingly becomes a powder keg, a mishap or miscalculation could lead to confrontation while Chinese and American ambitions are at odds. China seeks to bring the strategically and symbolically important island back under its control, and the U.S. sees Taiwan in the context of broader challenges from China.“From the U.S.

It's Friday, welcome to Overnight Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

What to know about the escalating tensions between China and Taiwan

  What to know about the escalating tensions between China and Taiwan There has been increasing "gray-zone" conflict across the strait. Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng even warned the Taiwanese legislature earlier this month that Beijing might be able to launch a "full-scale" invasion of the island by 2025.

Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan © Getty Images Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan

The Biden administration is walking back comments after confusion over whether the U.S. government was changing its stance on Taiwan.

We'll share what was said earlier, what officials are saying now and China's response.

For The Hill, I'm Ellen Mitchell. Write to me with tips: emitchell@thehill.com.

China wants the world to know it's 'not going to get pushed around' on Taiwan

  China wants the world to know it's 'not going to get pushed around' on Taiwan As countries including the U.S. deepen ties with the self-ruling island, Beijing is using military and other means to assert its territorial claims.But as Mia Hou of Taiwan took her turn, the red, white and blue Taiwanese flag — which had appeared earlier in the livestream — had disappeared. Organizers had removed the flag without warning after authorities in China, which claims the self-ruling island of Taiwan as its territory, stopped the livestream on platforms in the mainland.

Let's get to it.

No change on Taiwan policy, White House says

  Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan © Provided by The Hill

The White House on Friday sought to clarify President Biden's comments related to ensuring Taiwan's defense in the face of a potential Chinese attack, saying U.S. policy toward the island is unchanged.

"The President was not announcing any change in our policy and there is no change in our policy," a White House spokesperson said in response to a request for comment from The Hill.

"The U.S. defense relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act. We will uphold our commitment under the Act, we will continue to support Taiwan's self-defense, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo," the spokesperson added.

Taiwan Vows to 'Defend Itself' Amid U.S. Reversal, Here's How Much Stronger China Is

  Taiwan Vows to 'Defend Itself' Amid U.S. Reversal, Here's How Much Stronger China Is "The complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and it will definitely be fulfilled," Ma Xiaoguang of China's Taiwan Affairs Council said.President Joe Biden stirred controversy during a Thursday evening town hall when he twice appeared to confirm that he had a commitment to protect Taiwan in the event of an attack, one that would presumably come from China, where President Xi Jinping has vowed to take reintegrate the rival government by diplomacy, or force, if necessary.

Earlier comments cause stir: Biden on Thursday night answered in the affirmative when asked during a CNN town hall if the U.S. would come to Taiwan's defense if attacked by China.

"Yes, we have a commitment to do that," the president said.

The answer appeared to fly in the face of nearly four decades of U.S. policy toward Taiwan, in which America has adhered to "strategic ambiguity" when dealing with the island nation. Biden's comment follows a similar statement he made in August, when he appeared to equate U.S. policy toward Taiwan with security commitments it maintains with South Korea and Japan.

China's response: Chinese officials on Friday pushed back on Biden's remarks, accusing the U.S. of meddling in internal Chinese affairs.

"The Taiwan question is purely China's internal affairs that allow no foreign interference. ... No one should underestimate the resolve, the will and the ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and territorial integrity," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in a briefing with reporters.

Biden's vow of Taiwan 'commitment' the latest mixed signal on Chinese aggression

  Biden's vow of Taiwan 'commitment' the latest mixed signal on Chinese aggression President Joe Biden's declaration Thursday that the United States has a "commitment" to defend Taiwan against China continued his administration's trend of sending mixed messages in the face of Beijing's aggression.Biden's vow in a CNN town hall was the second time in recent months that he has said the U.S. would respond militarily if China attacked the democratic island nation. Each time, the White House has subsequently insisted America’s decadeslong policy of “strategic ambiguity” had not actually changed.

From the Pentagon: Asked on Friday whether the U.S. government would defend Taiwan if attacked by Beijing, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would not directly answer, only saying that Washington remains committed to its long held policy with China.

"Nobody wants to see cross-strait issues come to blows, certainly not President Biden, and there's no reason that it should," Austin said at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Friday.

"As we've done over multiple administrations, we'll continue to help Taiwan with the sorts of capabilities that it needs to defend itself, and so we'll stay focused on those things. And I won't engage in any hypotheticals with respect to Taiwan."

FYI: The U.S. established its "one China" policy in 1979, recognizing Beijing as the sole, legal government of China but maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan and committed to ensuring its self-defense as part of efforts to promote a reconciliation between Beijing and Taipei and avoid a forceful takeover of the island, which runs under a democratic government.

Yet an increasingly aggressive and provocative China has raised the risk that an invasion of Taiwan is possible and raised questions of the usefulness of the U.S.'s policy of strategic ambiguity in favor of a more clear commitment to coming to Taiwan's aid in the face of an invasion.

US Isn’t Alone in Support of Taiwan

  US Isn’t Alone in Support of Taiwan There has been an extraordinary amount of talk in policy circles recently about Taiwan and the U.S. commitment to Taiwan’s security—and for good reason. © Provided by Washington Examiner A soldier holds a Taiwan national flag during a military exercise in Hsinchu County, northern Taiwan, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Taiwanese troops using tanks, mortars and small arms staged a drill Tuesday aimed at repelling an attack from China, which has increased its threats to reclaim the island and its own displays of military might.

Read the full story here.

A MESSAGE FROM RAYTHEON TECHNOLOGIES

  Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan © Provided by The Hill

Read how to deliver quick, seamless access to intelligence from any system in the battlefield, and how to adapt commercial data networks and clouds to military settings.

Top GOP want joint review of Afghan visa process

  Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan © Provided by The Hill

The top GOP lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services, Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees want four government watchdogs to conduct a joint inquiry into how the Biden administration handled the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

More wanted: The State Department inspector general earlier this week announced a series of reviews to look at the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, among other issues, but Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are asking for a wider investigation.

"While we appreciate the U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General's commitment to carry out a review of the SIV program, we feel any audit must be comprehensive in scope and consider the role of other key agencies, notably the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense," the senators wrote in a letter sent Thursday to the inspector generals of the Pentagon, State Department, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Agency for International Development.

Tsai Ing-wen: Taiwan's President confirms presence of US troops on the island

  Tsai Ing-wen: Taiwan's President confirms presence of US troops on the island The leader of Taiwan, the island thrust into the center of rising tensions between the United States and China, said the threat from Beijing is growing "every day," as for the first time she confirmed the presence of American troops on Taiwanese soil. © John Mees/CNN Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen in an interview with CNN on Tuesday in the capital Taipei.

What would be included: "This investigation should thoroughly review each individual executive department that holds responsibilities in the SIV process, as well as their respective bureaus, offices, and missions, and the interagency processes in place to help facilitate communication and coordination between them," the letter reads.

Some background: The end of the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan was thrown into chaos with the fall of the Western-backed government in Kabul to the Taliban on Aug. 15.

Both Democrats and Republicans have criticized the administration's handling of the chaotic U.S. exit from the country and demanded to know how 20 years of financial and physical investment failed to prepare Afghanistan's government and armed forces for a Taliban takeover after U.S. troops left.

More details, please: The lawmakers want agencies to work more closely together to give a detailed description of how many SIV applicants remain in the pipeline. They also want to know more about the SIV process, how long it takes and figures on applications received, approved and denied by year, to highlight those approved between April and August as the Biden administration struggled to process a backlog while the situation in Afghanistan quickly turned dire.

They also asked for details on how the State Department and Department of Homeland Security adjusted the SIV process to expand capacity "and address longstanding bureaucratic hurdles" following the Trump administration's February 2020 deal with the Taliban to pull U.S. troops from Afghanistan, as well as how viable the current SIV process is "in light of the recent Taliban takeover."

American Troops in Taiwan Training Forces, President Tsai Ing-wen Confirms

  American Troops in Taiwan Training Forces, President Tsai Ing-wen Confirms In her first interview with international media in nearly two years, the Taiwanese leader said she had "faith" in an American response if China were to attack.In a CNN interview that aired on Wednesday evening Eastern Time, Tsai Ing-wen said the troops—previously reported as special forces instructors—were part of Taiwan's various military exchanges with the U.S.

Read the full story here.

NEARLY 200 AMERICANS WANT TO LEAVE AFGHANISTAN

The Biden administration told Congress that more than 300 U.S. citizens are still in Afghanistan, 176 of whom want to leave.

In a Thursday briefing, the State Department told congressional staff that it is in touch with 363 American citizens, a call first reported by CNN.

More than previously known: The new numbers reveal more Americans want to get out of Afghanistan than the administration publicly estimated as U.S. forces were withdrawing from the country.

Earlier estimates: On Aug. 30, a day before the U.S. military ended its mission in the country, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said only "a small number of Americans, under 200 and likely closer to 100," remained in Afghanistan and wanted to leave.

Days later on Sept. 5, White House chief of staff Ron Klain estimated that around 100 Americans were still waiting to be evacuated.

How many have gotten out so far?: The U.S. government has helped about 234 Americans evacuate since the end of August, but it is not known exactly how many were in the country as U.S. troops left or how many remain.

Read more about that here.

A MESSAGE FROM RAYTHEON TECHNOLOGIES

  Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan © Provided by The Hill

Read how to deliver quick, seamless access to intelligence from any system in the battlefield, and how to adapt commercial data networks and clouds to military settings.

GOP worries over Pentagon vaccine mandate for contractors

A vial of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine © Provided by The Hill A vial of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Nearly a dozen GOP members of the House Armed Services Committee on Friday pressed the Biden administration over the Pentagon's looming COVID-19 vaccination deadline for defense contractors, arguing that the mandate should be reconsidered because it might compromise supply chains.

"We strongly urge you to reconsider the manner in which you are seeking to address this issue so as not to harm the livelihood of civilian contractors, industry partners, and strategic goals of our armed services," the 11 lawmakers wrote to President Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

"Those who adamantly refuse the vaccine will accept termination. We will lose critical experience in skilled labor. We will lose opportunities for mentorship and on-the-job training from veteran craftsmen," they continued. "In the long-term, we will miss quality control standards. We will face endemic cost overruns and rework as decades of lessons are not passed to the next generation."

Who signed on: Lawmakers who signed the letter included committee ranking member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) as well as Republican Reps. Rob Wittman (Va.), Vicky Hartzler (Mo.), Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), Joe Wilson (S.C.), Blake Moore (Utah), Doug Lamborn (Colo.), Jack Bergman (Mich.), Scott Desjarlais (Tenn.), Bill Posey (Fla.) and Jerry Carl (Ala.).

The lawmakers do not specifically ask the Pentagon to pause its mandate, rather, they ask the department to consider the economic negatives of such a rule.

The deadline: Defense Department contractors need to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8 or risk being fired, as laid out under guidance the Biden administration released for federal contractors and subcontractors in September.

Read the full story here.

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold a press briefing on "Previewing the G20 Rome Summit and COP26" at 9 a.m.
  • The Middle East Institute will hold a discussion on "Women in Afghanistan: No Hope for Human Rights?" at 10 a.m.
  • The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies will hold an in-person breakfast event with Air Combat Command head Gen. Mark Kelly at 10 a.m. at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C.
  • The Heritage Foundation will have a conversation with Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkevics at 4 p.m.

WHAT WE'RE READING

  • China pushes back on Biden Taiwan comments: 'No room' for compromise
  • Pentagon watchdog finds NSA properly sidelined GOP operative hired as top lawyer
  • Accused wife in Navy submarine spy case ordered to remain in jail
  • Pentagon conducts three hypersonic weapon tests
  • Red Cross says Afghan humanitarian crisis too big for aid groups to handle alone
  • Biden speaks with Macron, Harris to meet with French president in Paris
  • Defense One: A quartet of warnings highlight climate-related threats
  • Federal News Network: DoD civilians will be suspended without pay and then fired if they do not get vaccinated

That's it for today. Check out The Hill's defense and national security pages for the latest coverage. See you Monday.

American Troops in Taiwan Training Forces, President Tsai Ing-wen Confirms .
In her first interview with international media in nearly two years, the Taiwanese leader said she had "faith" in an American response if China were to attack.In a CNN interview that aired on Wednesday evening Eastern Time, Tsai Ing-wen said the troops—previously reported as special forces instructors—were part of Taiwan's various military exchanges with the U.S.

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