Maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is “not just a US interest but also a global one”, former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen said during a visit to Taiwan that comes amid the backdrop of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
The Ukraine conflict has drawn some parallels to China’s threat to use force to annex Taiwan, a self-governing island democracy it considers its own territory.
China has sought to diplomatically isolate President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration, sent military aircraft into the island’s buffer zone and held threatening exercises nearby.
Mr Mullen said peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region have “never been more important.”
“We come to Taiwan at a very difficult and critical moment in world history. As President Biden has said, democracy is facing sustained and alarming challenges, most recently in Ukraine,” he said in remarks to Ms Tsai on Wednesday.
“Now more than ever, democracy needs champions.”
Taiwan and mainland China are separated by the 100 mile-wide Taiwan Strait and any Chinese attempt to attack or invade would entail considerable risk, along with the possibility of involving the US and other regional powers in the conflict.
The US provides Taiwan with defensive arms and is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself and treat all threats to it as matters of “grave concern”.
Mr Mullen said the visit by his delegation “reflects the bipartisan nature of support for the United States’ strong partnership with Taiwan”.
In her remarks, Ms Tsai emphasized that Taiwan would continue to bolster its defences against China and said the resistance of the Ukrainian people was an inspiration.
“As a member of the international community, Taiwan not only expresses severe condemnation, but also participates in international sanctions against Russia and initiates humanitarian assistance to Ukraine,” she said. “Now is the time for democracies in the world to unite, and Taiwan cannot be absent.”
Separately, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Taiwan on Wednesday evening and was met by the Foreign Ministry’s chief of North American affairs.
Mr Pompeo, who earlier led the Central Intelligence Agency, will also meet with Ms Tsai on Thursday and address a forum, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Mr Pompeo has drawn attention for his recent flattering comments about Vladimir Putin, in which he called the Russian president “very capable” and said he has “enormous respect for him”.