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China would find U.S. strategic clarity 'destabilizing': U.S. spy chief

ROC Central News Agency

04/30/2021 04:31 PM

Washington, April 29 (CNA) The head of the United States intelligence community said Thursday at a Senate hearing that Beijing would find a shift in U.S. Taiwan policy from ambiguity to clarity "destabilizing."

"The Chinese would find this deeply destabilizing," Avril Haines, director of National Intelligence said at a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee when asked about China's possible reaction to the U.S. adopting an explicit commitment to defend Taiwan.

"It would solidify Chinese perceptions that the U.S. is bent on constraining China's rise, including through military force, and would probably cause Beijing to aggressively undermine U.S. interests worldwide," she said.

Further asked by committee chair Jack Reed whether a shift from strategic ambiguity would precipitate a surge towards Taiwan's "further separation from China," Haines replied "I think that's possible."

"I would say that already Taiwan is hardening to some extent towards independence as they're watching, essentially, what happened in Hong Kong, and I think that is an increasing challenge," she added.

For his part, Scott Berrier, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, told the committee that it is a goal of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) to unify Taiwan with China.

"We don't know that he's actually made a decision on how or when to do that," Berrier said, noting that his agency has noticed an increase in Chinese military activities on the sea and in the airspace around Taiwan over the last year.

He also noted that with everything going on in China right now, Hong Kong and Tibet are also some of the key issues that the U.S. has to deal with.

Asked to comment on U.S. Asia-Pacific commander Philip Davidson's assessment in the same committee earlier in March that China could invade Taiwan within a six-year timeframe, Haines said she would prefer to discuss the issue in a closed-door session.

The U.S. has adopted "strategic ambiguity" on the defense of Taiwan to maintain the status quo across the Taiwan Strait by keeping both sides of the strait guessing on the possible actions the U.S. would take in the event the status quo is breached.

However, some experts in U.S. defense policy circles have called on Washington to reconsider that policy due to China's increasingly aggressive behavior, including almost daily military sorties near Taiwan.

Davidson also told a Senate hearing in March that the U.S.' strategic ambiguity towards Taiwan should be reassessed.

Richard Haass and David Sacks of the U.S. think tank Council on Foreign Relations, wrote an article in September 2020 that argued ambiguity is unlikely to deter an increasingly assertive China with growing military capabilities.

"The time has come for the United States to introduce a policy of strategic clarity," said the article, titled "American Support for Taiwan Must Be Unambiguous."

(By Chiang Chin-yeh and Emerson Lim)


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