Taiwan Dismisses Questions About U.S. Resolve After Afghan Exit

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Taiwan’s premier defended the island’s ability to withstand a Chinese attack after the U.S.’s exit from Afghanistan raised questions about American commitment to security issues in Asia.

Premier Su Tseng-chang rejected comparisons between U.S. pledges to help the democratically elected government in Taipei defend itself and  Washington’s support for the regime in Kabul. Taiwan could avoid being “swallowed up” so long as it avoided similar domestic turmoil, Su said Tuesday.

“The bloody lesson to be drawn from Afghanistan is that if you are in chaos internally, people from outside can’t help you, even if they want to,” he said. “Only if you help yourself can others help you.”

Su was responding to arguments by Beijing-friendly opposition figures and Chinese state media that neither the U.S. nor President Tsai Ing-wen would fight in the event of a conflict. The episode illustrated how President Joe Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan to the Taliban after two decades of conflict could have broader implications for his foreign policy agenda.

“After the fall of the Kabul regime, the Taiwan authorities must be trembling,” Global Times Editor-in-Chief Hu Xijin wrote on Twitter on Monday. “Don’t look forward to the US to protect them.”

Comparisons between Taiwan and Afghanistan are fraught on several levels. Taipei has enjoyed a quarter of a century of democratic rule without internal strife and endured its own withdrawal of American forces more than four decades ago without incident.

Moreover, the need to concentrate extra American forces in the Western Pacific to defend security partners such as Taiwan from Chinese pressure is a major argument of those who support withdrawal from Afghanistan. The People’s Liberation Army has flown about 380 sorties into the Taiwan’s air-defense identification zone so far this year, roughly equaling its total for all of last year.

On Tuesday, the Chinese and Taiwanese militaries held dueling exercises in the Taiwan Strait. China said its naval and aerial live-fire military exercises were a “necessary activity” due to increasingly strong ties between Washington and Taipei. Earlier this month, the U.S. approved a potential $750 million deal to supply Taiwan with howitzers and GPS upgrade kits in its first arms sale to the island since Biden came to office.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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