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For the first time since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, Beijing retaliated against the United States, cutting off dialogue on multiple topics including climate change and sanctioning Pelosi and her family. China also launched the largest military exercise around Taiwan in more than 25 years. Bi-khim Hsiao, Taiwan’s most senior official in the U.S., joins Nick Schifrin to discuss.
Today, for the first time since Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, Beijing retaliated against the United States, cutting off dialogue on multiple topics.
Nick Schifrin has that story and sits down with Taiwan's most senior official in the U.S.
Beijing is forcing Taiwan to pay the heaviest cost for Pelosi's visit. But, today, China targeted Washington and announced it would suspend dialogue on climate change, what a senior U.S. official characterized as punishing the whole world.
Militarily, it is canceling talks between regional commanders and defense policy officials, as well as meetings to discuss operations, which a U.S. official warned could lead to misperceptions and miscalculations. And, today, Beijing sanctioned Pelosi and her family.
As for Taiwan, China has launched the largest military exercises around the island in 25 years. The Chinese are firing missiles into blocks that surround the island, some within Taiwan's territorial waters.
And to discuss this, we are joined by the top Taiwanese official in the United States, Representative Bi-khim Hsiao.
Thank you very much. Welcome to the "NewsHour."
Bi-khim Hsiao, Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office: Thanks for having me.
You pushed for this visit. Given today what we have seen, Chinese missiles flying over Taipei, Chinese missiles landing inside Taiwanese territorial waters, and now up to 1,000 Taiwanese products banned by Beijing, do you think it was worth it?
Well, I have to say that the people of Taiwan cherish our friends in the international community.
We have a very unique perspective on friends visiting us. For too long, Taiwan has been bullied and marginalized and isolated from the world and from international organizations. We don't take our democracy for granted. And we don't take our friends for granted.
What about the long-term consequences of this visit? It seems like China is trying to create a new military status quo, launching these missiles, disrupting, sailing around the island, taking into account Taiwanese territorial waters.
Can the you or U.S. do anything to prevent that?
Well, what is alarming is, obviously, China has been preparing for such military buildup for a long time, way before Speaker Pelosi decided to visit Taiwan.
The scope and the range of the current exercises do demonstrate that this has long been in the coming. China's escalation is unreasonable and unnecessary. We think it is important that they understand such engagements between the people of Taiwan and the people around the world are consistent with decades of practice.
And there is no reason for them to escalate. Are we worried and concerned? Yes. And that is why we are also committed to investing in our own self-defenses, in fortifying our asymmetric capabilities, in reforming our reserves, in better integrating civilian support in our homeland defenses.
But I have to make clear that we don't want war. We want peace. We will do anything we can to de-escalate. But we will not surrender our freedom.
Those are the very steps you just listed that the U.S. actually has been pushing Taipei to take in terms of how to defend itself militarily.
But are you concerned that these exercises by Beijing are a way for them to practice a blockade, as Beijing has suggested?
Well, we cannot control what Beijing does, although we continue to urge them to work with us to resolve our differences in a peaceful way.
The status quo, which we are committed to, has served the interests of all parties involved for decades. And we call on the People's Republic of China and the Communist Party of China to exercise restraint and be reasonable.
Are you seeing any restraint or reasonableness, given that Beijing is saying they're going to operate this weekend inside your territorial waters?
Well, they, as we speak, are conducting live-fire drills around Taiwan. And, again, we urge them to act with reason and again remind them that it is up to Beijing to decide if China's growth and rejuvenation is done with international respect or with international condemnation.
Rejuvenation, of course, is the word that Xi Jinping himself uses.
Let me ask you about something else.
President Biden said publicly — quote — "The military does not want Pelosi to go." Privately, administration officials tried to convince Pelosi not to go to Taiwan.
Do you disagree with some of those administration steps?
Well, I'm not going to talk about their private conversations.
But what I can say is, the views from and perspectives from Taiwan. And that is, we have welcomed congressional delegations to Taiwan for decades, including former speakers, to Taiwan.
But it doesn't sound like the White House necessarily feels the same way.
Well, I think, ultimately, our friends in the United States understand democracy. They also understand the sentiments of the people of Taiwan, who seek greater international support and also gestures of support.
Let me ask you about U.S. policy moving forward.
Congressional officials in the last few days have said publicly that the administration has concerns with the Taiwan Policy Act, which would require $4.5 billion of military aid to Taiwan and designate Taiwan as a major NATO — non-NATO ally.
Do you support the legislation? And, again, do you disagree with any efforts by the administration against that legislation?
There are a number of legislative initiatives. So, we respect the legislative process here in the United States.
We haven't talked about any specific aspects of this bill. But we are exploring some very meaningful ways in strengthening Taiwan's self-defense. That includes, for example, continuing foreign military sales. That, again, is not unprecedented. It has been ongoing over the years.
Yesterday, the White House made a rare announcement about troop deployments and said that the USS Ronald Reagan, an aircraft carrier, and its associated ships would remain in the area east of Taiwan, and would also conduct — quote — "standard transits" through the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks.
How important are those transit, and how important is it that those go off without any kind of hitch?
Well, I think it's important to assert that the Taiwan Straits are high seas. And the freedom of navigation is a very important part of global commerce. It has worked for all of us, including for China's economic development.
Beijing has been a bit ambiguous about whether the Taiwan Strait is international waters. Do you fear that Beijing could try and somehow disrupt an American freedom of navigation?
Look, Beijing is doing a lot. And I'm not going to speak on their intentions or what they plan to do.
But I think it's in everyone's interests in the world to make sure we have a rules-based international order. And the stakeholders in the region should also abide by a rules based international order. Peace and stability has served everyone's interests.
And, again, we call on the leadership in China to exercise reason and restraint and to recognize the importance of peace and stability in the region.
Representative Bi-khim Hsiao, thank you very much.
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Nick Schifrin is the foreign affairs and defense correspondent for PBS NewsHour, based in Washington, D.C. He leads NewsHour's foreign reporting and has created week-long, in-depth series for NewsHour from China, Russia, Ukraine, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Cuba, Mexico, and the Baltics. The PBS NewsHour series "Inside Putin's Russia" won a 2018 Peabody Award and the National Press Club's Edwin M. Hood Award for Diplomatic Correspondence. In November 2020, Schifrin received the American Academy of Diplomacy’s Arthur Ross Media Award for Distinguished Reporting and Analysis of Foreign Affairs.
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