Washington Examiner: Taiwan rejected Beijing’s authoritarianism; the US must do more to support our ally

Earlier this month, the Taiwanese people reelected President Tsai Ing-wen to office with historic levels of support. President Tsai’s dedication to defending Taiwan in the face of constant hostility from the mainland Chinese Communist Party is inspiring. Taiwan has once again demonstrated that it is a model democracy in the Indo-Pacific: free, open, and a strong partner of its regional allies and the United States.

Considering this, now is the time for the U.S. government to strengthen our ties with Taiwan and counter China’s efforts to interfere with U.S. security interests and partners in the Indo-Pacific. Opportunities for American engagement include ship visits and face-to-face meetings between senior military and government officials. The administration should fully implement the Taiwan Travel Act, a bill I authored with Representative Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, and which was signed into law in 2018, which encourages high-level visits between U.S. and Taiwanese officials in our respective capitals.

The Trump administration should also commit to negotiating a new free trade agreement between Taiwan and the United States this year. This will strengthen commerce between both of our highly developed economies, expanding market access for American and Taiwanese goods alike. Increasing integration would also help Taiwan diversify its trade regime and grow more independent of the CCP, which has worked to ensnare Taipei economically in recent years.

In addition, the United States should intensify efforts to support President Tsai and the Taiwanese military as they build up Taiwan’s asymmetric defense capabilities and upgrade their reserve forces. The CCP has long posed an existential threat to Taipei, but Xi Jinping has escalated the situation in recent years with more frequent violations of the longstanding cross-strait status quo and heated rhetoric intended to intimidate the Taiwanese people.

America and like-minded democracies should provide Taiwan weapons systems that would prevent People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces from landing on the island, should they attempt an invasion. It must be a high priority to maintain Taiwanese security by communicating to Beijing the high cost of any attempt to invade Taiwan.

America should also assist Taiwan in improving readiness among its regular forces and its reserves. The Taiwanese military has not yet resolved the problems of transitioning to an all-volunteer force. The time in service has become too short to build the muscle memory for both weapons and tactics. If regular soldiers are not well trained and lack a strong foundation, then the reserve system will be useless.

The difficulties of deepening cooperation are well known by both sides. But for the sake of Taiwan and a free, open Indo-Pacific, Americans and Taiwanese need to forthrightly address these concerns. The stakes are too high when Beijing continues to pressure Taiwan politically and economically.

Beijing has not masked its desire to isolate Taiwan. This includes using economic coercion to pressure nations to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan, bullying companies — including U.S. airlines and companies – over Taiwan’s status, and blocking its participation in international organizations. Now is the time for the United States to stand strong with the Taiwanese people, regardless of those coercive measures.

The relationship between the United States and Taiwan is a partnership between two vibrant democracies based on shared values and vision. President Tsai’s reelection through a transparent, democratic process is a moment to be celebrated – and the U.S. and our regional allies must use this time to advance our shared objective of an Indo-Pacific region that is prosperous, peaceful, and free.

Marco Rubio, a Republican, is Florida’s senior U.S. senator.

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