The US’s Reckless Arming of Taiwan

As Washington follows the neocon Wolfowitz Doctrine in East Asia, John V. Walsh says U.S. provocation must stop. Biden should instead take up China’s offer of peaceful coexistence.    

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen reviews a Marine Corps battalion in Kaohsiung in July 2020. (Taiwan presidency, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

By John V. Walsh

The Island of Taiwan has been turned into a “powder keg” by the infusion of U.S. weaponry, pushing the Taiwanese people into the “abyss of disaster.” 

These are the words of the Chinese Defense Ministry in reaction to the recent $440 million sale of U.S. arms to the island.  And now the U.S. is also giving, not selling, arms to Taiwan, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer

Taiwan is but one in a series of islands along the Chinese coast, often called The First Island Chain, which now bristles with advanced U.S. weapons. These are accompanied by tens of thousands of supporting U.S. military personnel and combat troops. 

The First Island Chain extends from Japan in the north southward through Japan’s Ryukyu Islands which include Okinawa, to Taiwan and on to the northern Philippines. 

U.S. ally, South Korea, with a military of 500,000 active-duty personnel and 3 million reserves is a powerful adjunct to this chain.  In U.S. military doctrine the First Island Chain is a base to “project power” and restrict sea access to China.

Taiwan is at the center this string of islands. It is considered the focal point of The First Island Chain strategy.  When the fiercely hawkish Cold Warrior, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, conceived the strategy in 1951, he dubbed Taiwan America’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier.” 

First and Second island chains at East Asian island arcs. (DoD, China Report 2006, Public domain, Wikimedia Commons) 

Taiwan is now one source of contention between the U.S. and China. As is often said but rarely done, the pursuit of peace demands understanding the point of view of those marked as adversaries.  And, in China’s eyes, Taiwan and the rest of these armed isles look like both a chain and a noose. 

How would the U.S. react in a similar circumstance? Cuba is about the same distance from the U.S. as the width of the Taiwan Strait that separates Taiwan from the Mainland.  Consider the recent U.S. reaction to rumors that China was setting up a listening post in Cuba.  There was a bipartisan reaction of alarm in Congress and a bipartisan statement that such an installation is “unacceptable.” 

What would be the reaction if China armed Cuba to the teeth or sent hundreds of soldiers there as the U.S. has done to Taiwan?  It is not hard to imagine. One immediately thinks of the U.S. sponsored invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and later the Cuban missile crisis.

Clearly the arming of Taiwan is a provocative act that pushes the U.S. closer to war with China, a nuclear power.

The Secessionist Movement in Taiwan

Aug. 2, 2022: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Taipei with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen. (Wang Yu Ching, Office of the President, CC BY 2.0)

According to the One China Policy, the official policy of the U.S., Taiwan is part of China.  The U.N. took the same position in 1971 with passage of Resolution 2758 (also known as the Resolution on Admitting Peking) which recognized the Peoples Republic of China as the legitimate government of all of China and its sole representative in the U.N.

In recent decades a secessionist movement has developed on the island of Taiwan, a sentiment represented by the DPP (Democratic Progressive Party).  Currently Tsai Ing-wen of the DPP is president.  But in the local elections of 2022, the DPP lost very badly to the KMT (Kuomintang) which is friendly to the Mainland and wishes to preserve the status quo or “strategic ambiguity,” as it is called.

Tsai built the DPP’s 2022 campaign on hostility to Beijing, not on local issues. And at the same time her government passed legislation to increase the compulsory service time for young Taiwanese males from six months to a year.  Needless to say, this hawkish move was not popular with the under-30 set.

Polling in 2022 showed that an overwhelming majority of Taiwanese now want to preserve the status quo.  Only 1.3 percent want immediate unification and only 5.3 percent want immediate independence. 

Compared to previous years, a record 28.6 percent of those polled said they preferred to “maintain the status quo indefinitely,” while 28.3 percent chose the status quo to “decide at a later date,” and 25.2 percent opted for the status quo with a view to “move toward independence.” 

Thus, a total of 82.1 percent now favor the status quo. 

Not surprisingly, every prominent presidential candidate professes to be in favor of the status quo.  However, DPP candidates also contend there is no need to declare independence since in their eyes Taiwan is already independent.

The stated policy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is to seek peaceful reunification with Taiwan. Only if the secessionist movement formally declares independence does Beijing threaten to use force.  Clearly the Taiwanese do not wish to find themselves in the position of Ukrainians, cannon fodder in a U.S. proxy war.

[Related: Making Taiwan the Ukraine of the East]

Guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville transiting Taiwan Strait in  2020. (U.S. Navy, Gregory N. Juday)

Here the U.S. might once more consider how its alleged enemy, China, sees things and might react to a formal act of secession and declaration of independence by Taiwan. 

The U.S. might be guided by its own history. When the Confederate States seceded from the Union, the U.S. descended into the bloodiest war in its history with 620,000 soldiers dead.  Moreover, a secessionist Taiwan, as an armed ally of the U.S., represents to China a return to the “Century of Humiliation” at the hands of the colonial West. 

Given these circumstances, arming Taiwan clearly creates a “powder keg.” A single spark could ignite it.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the U.S. is trying to gin up a proxy war that would engulf East Asia, damaging not only China but other U.S. economic competitors such as Japan and South Korea. The U.S. would come out on top. It is the neocon Wolfowitz Doctrine put into play. But in the nuclear age such stratagems amount to total insanity.

If some Taiwanese hope that the U.S. will come to its aid, they should ponder carefully the tragedy of Ukraine. Somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 Ukrainian soldiers have lost their lives so far and millions turned into refugees. 

A similar U.S. proxy war in Taiwan could easily turn into a full-scale conflict between the world’s two largest economies, certainly triggering a global depression and perhaps a nuclear exchange. 

And U.S. President Biden has committed to send troops to fight the Peoples Liberation Army should hostilities break out. So, the situation is even more perilous than the one in Ukraine.

[Related: Biden’s Vow of US Military Response Over Taiwan]

None of Washington’s Business

When all this is considered, arming Taiwan is asking for trouble on a global scale. Taiwan and Beijing can settle their disagreements by themselves. Frankly put, disagreements between the two are none of America’s business. 

So, those in the U.S. must stop the government from arming Taiwan.  The U.S. military needs to get out of East Asia.  It is an ocean away, and no power there is threatening the U.S.  Chinese warships are not off the U.S. Pacific coast, nor are Chinese troops or Chinese military bases anywhere in the entire hemisphere. 

China calls for peaceful coexistence and a win-win set of relationships with Washington. The U.S. should take them up on that.

All those troops, submarines, bombers, rockets and warships should leave East Asia before they stumble into a conflict or become the instrument of a false flag operation. 

The Gulf of Tonkin Incident, a fake report of a Vietnamese attack on a U.S. ship led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, a de facto declaration of war against Vietnam.  In the end millions lost their lives in Southeast Asia in that horrific war.  But that will look like a schoolyard squabble compared to a U.S.-China war.

John V. Walsh, until recently a professor of physiology and neuroscience at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School, has written on issues of peace and health care for The San Francisco Chronicle, EastBayTimes/San Jose Mercury News, Asia Times, LA Progressive,, CounterPunch and others.

This article is from and reprinted with the author’s permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

21 comments for “The US’s Reckless Arming of Taiwan

  1. Jim other
    July 22, 2023 at 10:03

    A nuclear exchange between China and the United States would cause massive deaths all over the world, including the United States. These deaths would be due to the radioactivity that would spread around the world. The neocons would not care because they are part of the government which has built massive underground shelters for those in the government.

    Deaths would occur in civilians and the military. I hope those in the military understand this. Scientists, such as Oppenheimer understood this. That is why he turned against his creation, the atomic bomb.

  2. Guy Leveler
    July 21, 2023 at 10:22

    In American style elections, ‘the wrong party’ is not allowed to win.

    That’s one of the Rules, of the Rules Based Order. It must be so if we are to protect Democracy and Freedom, we can not allow the wrong people to win, or, if we consider them dangerous, to even have a voice. We can not allow our Freedom and Democracy to be subverted by letting those wrong people be heard, or, gawd forbid, actually win. Freedom demands it to be this way. Freedom is not Free, don’t you know. And what do you think this is, a democracy?

  3. WillD
    July 20, 2023 at 22:30

    As I read more and more articles about the recklessness of the US’ aggressive behaviour towards anyone and everyone who doesn’t bend to its dictates, I am often left speechless and in despair. What can I say that hasn’t been said already? What can I do to help prevent an increasingly likely global catastrophe caused by the US?

    The US and its western ‘vassal state’ allies are by far the biggest threat the world faces – it is genuinely an existential one – it threatens our survival!

    With his finger on the button, a demented hatred-filled old man sits in the Oval office surrounded by equally rabid warmongers, all itching to start WWIII and obliterate Russia and China – believing extraordinarily enough that they and their country will survive unscathed!

    He is beginning to make Hitler look positively tame by comparison.

  4. Rob
    July 20, 2023 at 18:08

    When dealing with neoconservative ideologues, facts and logic will never win the day. Conceivably, the American public could vote the bums out, but who even knew that neocons were running the show under Obama and Biden? Can we dare hope for genuine resistance from Congress? It’s a long shot at best.

    I had never heard the word “kakistocracy” until Trump became president, but that a what the US has become. Sadly, we may have passed the point of no return.

  5. lester
    July 20, 2023 at 13:59

    The Biden admin. has already announced that the first thing they would do in a war is destroy Taiwan’s chip factories! How dare those Ch*nks have up-to-date technology!

    What will Biden and co. do if the anti-independence, pro-one-China Kuomintang Party win the next elections in Taiwan? Sponsor *another* coup d’etat?

    • Robert
      July 20, 2023 at 16:46

      I don’t know what the Biden Administration would do if the KMT wins the next election, but I’m certain that it’s a subject being discussed by our State Department, CIA, and Department of War. Finding the next Zelensky of Taiwan is priority # 1. That’s not going to be easy.

  6. Eddie S
    July 20, 2023 at 12:38

    Re: the US encouraging and effectively arming the DPP in Taiwan.
    Can you imagine the outrage here in the US IF China (or Russia) were to encourage/fund the Jan 6th participants under the pretense of ‘encouraging democracy’ as the US has done in many countries, most recently Ukraine??

  7. Caliman
    July 20, 2023 at 11:43

    “Clearly the Taiwanese do not wish to find themselves in the position of Ukrainians, cannon fodder in a U.S. proxy war.”

    This is true. However, the people of Ukraine thought they were voting for a peace candidate when they elected Zelensky and look at what they got. Choose carefully next year!

  8. Starbuck
    July 20, 2023 at 11:16

    Remember when the Office of the Vice President, when occupied by Dick Cheney, was the heart of all darkness and evil? According to the Democrats of the era, it was all of that and even worse. Everything bad sprang from the Office of the Veep, and not the village idiot, Dubya. That was the Democrat story of the early 00’s.

    Victoria Nuland was a staffer assigned to foreign policy in the Office of the Veep.
    Elliot Abrams was still too disgraced from Iran-Contra to be allowed such a position.

    Today, both serve in the Democratic administration of Joe Biden, and the Cheney’s are almost honorary Democrats. I’m only a little bit surprised the John Bolton is not Secretary of State. And where are Rummy and Wolfowitz?

    Of course, Joe Biden always was pro-war, always was right there with Jesse Helms, and he obviously hated the resistance to the Vietnam War. He spent his college days angling to become the new young face on the pig that was the Democratic Party, and he succeeded becoming the young corporate senator in 1974. While his generation was marching in the streets, he was sucking up to power and money. Today Joe Biden is at least as far right as Dick Cheney, and he appears to be rapidly passing him and making the Cheney’s look liberal and progressive in comparison.

    And to show just how far right the current Democrats are today, the lead sheepdog in the primaries is a Trump-clone. There ‘base’ is now so right-wing that they don’t feel they need to provide a ‘lefty’ sheepdog anymore.

  9. Starbuck
    July 20, 2023 at 10:56

    The re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica began with a retiring commander Adama giving a speech at the decommissioning ceremony of his battlestar. He wanders off script while he’s talking, and asks a heretical question. The speech goes something like this …

    “When we fought the Cylons, we did it to save ourselves from extinction. But we never answered the question “why?” Why are we as a people worth saving?

    We still commit murder because of greed, spite, jealousy. And we still visit all of our sins upon our children. We refuse to accept responsibility for anything we’ve done. Like we did with the Cylons. We decided to play God — Create Life. And when that Life turned against us, we comforted ourselves with the knowledge that it really wasn’t our fault. Not really.

    You cannot play God, then wash your hands of the things that you have created. Sooner or later, the day comes when you can not hide from the things that you’ve done any more.”*

    Do Americans have a right to survive? Are the Americans a people worth saving?

    *The speech is up on Youtub. In this age of hacking, I won’t provide a link, but let you take the safer option of finding it yourself. There are enough clues in the opening sentence.

  10. Vinager Joe
    July 20, 2023 at 10:36

    What would be the reaction if China gave billions of dollars of weapons to a secession movement in Hawaii? What if secession leaders from Hawaii were traveling to China, and being greeted with high honors and meetings with the key members of the Central Committee?

    That’s a closer analog than Cuba. Thanks to Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Cuba is not a US State. China does view Taiwan as a historical part of China. Which it was, before Chang Kai Scheck and his authoritarian one-party government (thieves) fled there to escape the wrath of the people of China.

  11. Kevin Koller
    July 19, 2023 at 21:10

    The Chinese government would be within their rights to drop off armed men and war materiel by air and sea to conduct “defense exercises” on their territory of Taiwan. Like, tomorrow. I am glad that they are a wise and patient civilization…

  12. ZimInSeattle
    July 19, 2023 at 15:48

    All the US has left is militarism when dealing with the rest of the world. They also seem to have an endless supply of Ukrainian type suicide vests frantically fitting these up on Taiwan, Australia, South Korea etc all in an attempt to maintain hegemony. The gig is up. Ukraine has exposed the #EmpireOfLies as a paper tiger. 88% of the world is not on their side. The level of hubris & hypocrisy has reached crisis levels. Let’s hope that somehow someway the US learns to get along before the unthinkable happens.

    • stephen sivonda
      July 19, 2023 at 22:49

      Well spoken sir. Yes, the Ukraine fiasco…. all those “NATO” members have no guts to dissolve that which allows the US to run rampant in Eastern Europe and use the Ukraine as a fuse towards the eventual use of nukes. We have fools in our Govt. time for change !

  13. Jim Thomas
    July 19, 2023 at 15:41

    Biden is a warmongering neocon and has chosen warmongering neocons to fill the most important posts dealing with foreign policy. As long as these crazy nitwits are in charge of foreign policy, we will be endangered by their foolish aggression. Oh, of course, the trillions of dollars being wasted fighting these illegal wars of aggression will drain the treasury and provide a pretext for austerity – sorry, no money is available for health care, education, infrastructure, etc. Both parties support these terrible policies, so only a complete (not to say revolutionary) change in our political/electoral system is made, this nonsense will continue.

  14. Packard
    July 19, 2023 at 15:09

    Still waiting to see if the Taiwanese care more about their own freedom, their own independence, and their future than do a few thousand neocon & war mongering Americans living 6000 miles away in Washington D.C.

    Presently, Taiwan’s measurable defensive preparations do not seem to match anything close to their primary arms supplier’s war rhetoric. Or, maybe that is the point. America is expected once again to fight this new faraway war…ehhh?

  15. susan
    July 19, 2023 at 14:56

    What in the hell are we doing? Is this administration completely insane? Nothing on earth will survive if we don’t stop this maniacal march toward nuclear annihilation…

    • CaseyG
      July 19, 2023 at 18:38

      Hi susan:

      Hi Susan:
      I think what has happened is that elected people who were never in a war, seem to want to be president and
      start wars. JFK , Bush 1 and Carter were the last ones who had ever been in a war. Both Bush 2 and Biden, neither of whom have been in a war just just seem to want to start wars. Early on, Bush 2 was saying,” mission accomplished”and nothing was accomplished. Then 8 years later—-what was it that he accomplished? Nothing ——except killing millions. Who knows with Biden—-he’s like a balloon that flies in all directions but accomplishes —-nothing. I think if he falls down one more time—that would be the end of him.


    • Renate
      July 20, 2023 at 12:14

      susan, they have to be insane, there is no other explanation. The Wolfowitz doctrine has been a failure from day one, it is the recipe for self-destruction, and Biden and his people are a pack of killers in Washington who continue on the path of failure.
      They have no character, no integrity, and no conscience. The politicians of both parties are bad and insane people who value wealth and power only and they will kill to get it.

      • Bill Todd
        July 20, 2023 at 17:21

        “They have no character, no integrity, and no conscience. The politicians of both parties are bad and insane people who value wealth and power only and they will kill to get it.”

        You’ll get no argument from me about that, and I’d be willing to help use whatever means might be necessary to eliminate them because they constitute an existential threat to not just the U.S. population but to the world population as a whole, including much of its non-human life. But nothing that drastic should be necessary because we could simply vote them out of office with sufficient support from the U.S. voting public if that public were not comatose, which brings to mind Starbuck’s question above “Is the U.S. public worth saving?” and the related question of whether the world human population is worth saving if the rest of the world isn’t ready to step up to the plate and do whatever is necessary to preserve themselves (the non-human population doesn’t really have the resources to do so for themselves).

        The Jefferson quote “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” is often brought up to justify such ideas even though the intent has been subject to debate. The January 6th ‘insurrection’ may have had such beliefs at its core but failed to rise above the influence of corrupt politics that misdirected its impact. If we or the world will succeed in saving ourselves real organization (and soon) is likely necessary.

      • J Anthony
        July 21, 2023 at 10:22

        Exactly. It sounds hyperbolic or paranoid to the average person, but that is the crux of it…they will kill us all before they concede one iota of power. What is to be done?

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