U.S. Spy Chief Sees Taiwan Views Hardening for Independence

The head of the U.S. intelligence community said she sees views in Taiwan “hardening” in favor of independence after China’s moves in recent years to tighten control over Hong Kong.

“I would say that already Taiwan is hardening, to some extent, toward independence as they’re watching, essentially, what happened in Hong Kong, and I think that is an increasing challenge,” Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said in testimony Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

U.S. Spy Chief Sees Taiwan Views Hardening for Independence

Questions about China dominated the “Worldwide Threats” hearing with Haines and Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. U.S.-China ties have remained tense into the Biden administration, which has continued to criticize Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and the South China Sea. Haines previously called China an “unparalleled priority” for the intelligence community.

The spy chief was pressed by Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the panel’s chairman, on the impact that a shift clarifying America’s long-held position of “strategic ambiguity” on defending Taiwan if it’s attacked would have in both Beijing and Taipei. Such a move would involve the U.S. saying definitively that it would come to Taiwan’s defense in case of attack.

China “would find this deeply” destabilizing, and it would “solidify Chinese perceptions that the U.S. is bent on constraining China’s rise, including through military force,” Haines said.

Berrier, the DIA chief, said he sees a “significant” threat from China’s rapid modernization of its military, saying the People’s Liberation Army is now capable of placing nuclear warheads on its next-generation hypersonic missiles.

He added that China is increasingly using technology to try to “gain near-real-time tracking and observation” of Pentagon personnel and activities.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said during a regular briefing Friday that Beijing is determined to uphold its “sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“The U.S. should sufficiently recognize the harmful and dangerous nature of Taiwan independence,” he said.

A record 32% of Taiwan’s public favors immediate or eventual independence, according to polling as of December last year by the Election Study Center at National Chengchi University in Taipei.

That figure comes as Beijing tightens its political grip over Hong Kong, in part by imposing a national security law on the city. Still, some 54% of the survey respondents expressed a preference for maintaining the status quo in Taiwan.

Turning to other hot spots, both Haines and Berrier said there’s no sign that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has taken any steps toward denuclearization, a key goal of former President Donald Trump’s outreach to the regime. Berrier said he expects that after a waiting period to assess Biden’s approach toward the country, North Korea will resume some weapons testing.

“Pyongyang probably would then seek to justify actions it is planning by using U.S. pressure or joint U.S. military exercises with South Korea as a pretext for testing” an intercontinental ballistic missile or shorter-range land- or submarine-based missiles, Berrier said in his written testimony.

Kim might also detonate “another nuclear device -- in order to demonstrate North Korean strength and resolve,” according to the remarks.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.