Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) pressed Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday to prioritize sending arms to Taiwan to defend itself against China over helping Ukraine hold off the Russian invasion, arguing that the former is more important to U.S. national security interests.
Hawley said in a letter to Blinken that arms transfers to Ukraine are impeding the United States’ ability to prevent a war in Asia through supplying Taiwan.
“Seizing Taiwan is Beijing’s next step toward dominating the Indo-Pacific region,” he said. “If Beijing succeeds, it would have dire ramifications for Americans’ national security, as well as our economic security and freedom of action.”
Hawley said the Biden administration is prioritizing Ukraine over our the United States’ “vital security interests” in Asia, a strategy he said is not sustainable. He pointed to comments in which Blinken noted the Chinese government is determined to accomplish “reunification” on a faster timeline.
Hawley said the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, an independent government agency that submits annual reports to Congress on the U.S.-Chinese relationship, found that the direction of existing stocks of munitions and arms to Ukraine and supply issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a backlog in delivering weapons that were approved for sale to Taiwan.
He cited a Wall Street Journal report that said the backlog has grown to $18.7 billion in supplies.
China considers Taiwan to be a part of its territory and awaiting reunification. The U.S. pursues a policy of strategic ambiguity regarding the situation, recognizing the People’s Republic of China as the sole legitimate government but considering Taiwan’s status to be unsettled.
Hawley said the Biden administration will argue that mechanisms for delivering arms to Ukraine and Taiwan differ.
“But this explanation does little to allay concerns,” he said. “Regardless of the weapons’ source, if both Taiwan and Ukraine need them, they should go to Taiwan first.”
He said the U.S. cannot wait for a Chinese invasion before sending weapons to Taiwan because of the island’s susceptibility to a blockade and because the goal is to deter an incursion, not fight against it.
Hawley asked Blinken a series of six questions that he requested to have responses to by Dec. 16. They include whether both Ukraine and Taiwan would benefit from some of the same capabilities to defend themselves, if sending weapons to Ukraine that could be used for Taiwan weakens deterrence against China, and how NATO allies can do more to arm Ukraine so the U.S. can focus on arming Taiwan.
Hawley has previously called for the U.S. to prioritize Taiwan’s security over Ukraine. He asked the Biden administration in February to drop any U.S. support for Ukraine joining NATO, arguing that it distracts from China’s growing influence.
He has also voted against overwhelmingly bipartisan bills to send additional aid packages to Ukraine.