Harris Vacationed in the Indo-Pacific While Blackburn Took on China
Vice President Kamala Harris and Sen. Martha Blackburn (R-TN) are both in the Indo-Pacific this week, but one is taking a long vacation while the other is in charge of China.
Harris has been in Hawaii From August 15th on vacation, and will reportedly return to Washington on Friday. Meanwhile, Senator Blackburn visited Taiwan and several smaller countries in the Indo-Pacific to show support as they faced an increasingly aggressive China.
China has stepped up its intimidation efforts against Taiwan after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other U.S. lawmakers visited the island. China considers Taiwan part of its territory, not an independent democracy, and has threatened to invade the island to “unify” it under Beijing’s authoritarian rule.
The Biden administration had opposed Pelosi’s trip, fearing it would disrupt China.
Blackburn spoke to a small group of reporters after meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and other senior Taiwanese officials at a telephone news conference in the region. she says:
We were here on a very insightful visit with Pacific island communities – Fiji, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. she says. “The time was well spent. [It’s] Obviously, from [Chinese Communist Party] It’s real…people in this area feel like they’re on the front lines.
Blackburn said that while the leadership of the Solomon Islands had decided to engage with China, it was not acceptable to its people. “They have concerns,” she said, adding that they wanted to do more with the United States.
She said she had learned from her visit to the Solomon Islands that “you have to be there to engage and fight what’s going on in China.”
“We’re currently building the embassy building … there’s a team there and they’re working,” she said.
Blackburn said Taiwan is an important U.S. trading partner and a source of semiconductors and microprocessors, as well as other critical supply chain items. Taiwanese officials have said they want to see expanded trade with the U.S., including increased agricultural exports to the U.S., and expansion of those markets in the U.S., she said.
She also said that Taiwanese shared values of democracy, freedom, liberty, and their desire to protect those values and preserve their culture, which would be threatened by a Chinese takeover.
She said the Taiwanese are increasing their defense spending, especially in capabilities that they may have an asymmetric advantage over China. They are also increasing their army reserve components, as well as cyber capabilities.
She warned that a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would have “global repercussions.”
She said there is concern across the region that if China does invade Taiwan, it will hit smaller countries. “It’s also causing some heartburn in the area,” she said.
Blackburn said Taiwanese officials are seeking more arms sales from the United States, and the Biden administration has been slow to approve them.
“They’re definitely looking for more, and they’re starting to talk about what they need to stockpile, what’s needed for asymmetrical preservation … the military stockpile part of what they’ll be calling for,” she added.
“They feel like it’s moving too slowly; they feel like they need to pick up the pace … approval — that’s where the pace needs to be picked up,” she said.
Ukraine had also demanded more weapons from the U.S. before the Russian invasion, but the Biden administration was slow to approve them for fear it would anger Russia — which ended up invading the country anyway. Republican lawmakers have argued that if Ukraine had been armed enough in advance, it could have prevented the invasion.
Blackburn declined to describe China’s threat to Taiwan, but said the island nation was “focused on getting ready.”
A Chinese invasion is not inevitable, she said. “They felt there was a way to remain independent. They were fully aware that China was bent on global domination … and they knew they were preparing,” she said.
The United States remains Taiwan’s “partner of choice,” she said.
“Whether it’s countering China or driving economic growth … the United States is the partner of choice,” she said.
As for whether the United States should change the “one China policy” and recognize Taiwan as an independent country, Blackburn said: “I think Taiwan is a country. If Taiwan is not a country, why should China talk about reunification?”
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