President Joe Biden on Monday indicated the United States would use military force to defend Taiwan against an attack from China, breaking from decades of “strategic ambiguity” where leaders have been intentionally vague about how the U.S. would react if China attempts to reclaim the island.
Quickly, the administration walked it back, saying the policy remains the same as it has under previous administrations. That wasn’t enough for Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, who has advocated for a more aggressive stance against China to the point where he has downplayed the war in Ukraine.
“If he wants to send a message to China, the thing to do is to get our forces in a position in the Asia Pacific, where we can stop an invasion of Taiwan,” Hawley said Tuesday. “That’s how you deter China.”
Earlier Tuesday, Hawley published an op-ed where he argued the country needed to take a more nationalist approach to foreign policy. In it, he said the $40 billion aid bill Congress passed in support of Ukraine, saying it would put the country on the hook for financing the war against Russia and for helping the country rebuild after.
Hawley said China posses a large threat to the country because he feels they could reach the point where they are dictating trade and dictating national security decisions.
Hawley has advocated for more military resources to defend against China for a while. In February, Hawley called on the Biden administration to drop its support for Ukraine’s bid to join the NATO alliance and said the administration should be more focused on getting its resources to the pacific.
He reiterated on Tuesday that he saw China as a bigger threat than Russia, even amid the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
“It is an order of magnitude different from Russia,” Hawley said. “Is Russia a threat? Yeah sure. Are they a threat on the scale of China? I don’t think that they are.”
Hawley was the only member of the Missouri delegation not included on a recent list banning Americans from entering Russia. The list included three dead senators and neither of Kansas’ senators were banned.
Hawley is in the minority among Senate Republicans when it comes to his stance on Ukraine. He was one of just 11 senators who voted against the Ukraine aid package.
When asked about Taiwan at a press conference on Tuesday, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell placed any threats to the island in the context of Ukraine.
“The single most important thing we can do to push back against President Xi is to help the Ukrainians push back against Putin,” McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said.
McConnell also called for selling weapons to the Taiwanese in order to help them defend against a potential attack from China.
Hawley does not have much sway over the country’s military strategy. While he serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, troop decisions are ultimately up to the Department of Defense. He has previously introduced bills to help arm Taiwan, though they have not moved through the Democratic-controlled Congress.
In 2021, he proposed a bill that would send $3 billion worth of equipment and training to Taiwan annually. In April, he sponsored another bill to speed up getting weapons to Taiwan, criticizing the administration for waiting too long to get weapons to Ukraine in the process.
“The Biden administration waited for Russia to invade before surging lethal aid to Ukraine,” Hawley said in the press release for his bill. “We can’t afford to the make same mistake in the Indo-Pacific. That’s why it is so important to fast-track weapons to Taiwan now, while Taiwan still has to time to marshal its defenses and deter a Chinese invasion.”
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