Likely barely struggling to handle one rapidly developing crisis in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the Biden administration could be stepping into another as it will dispatch a high level US delegation to Taiwan on Monday in a "gesture of support" - as one senior official quoted in Reuters put it.
The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under the Bush and Obama presidencies, Mike Mullen, will head up the team - and will be accompanied by former deputy national security advisors under Bush Michele Flournoy and Meghan O’Sullivan. The additional two officials are former senior National Security Council directors for Asia Evan Medeiros and Mike Green will also be on the trip.
"This is to demonstrate our support for Taiwan," a Biden official told Reuters. Additionally Taiwan recently revealed that Trump's former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit Taipei in the first week of March, which is not connected with the official Biden delegation; instead, Pompeo is said to be visiting as a "private citizen" - though still without doubt it will be taken as provocative by Beijing.
According to details in Reuters:
They are expected to arrive in Taiwan Tuesday afternoon, and will stay there until Wednesday night. During this time, they intend to meet Taiwan President TsaiIng-wen and Defense Minister Chiukuo-cheng, as well as other high-ranking officials.
According to the official, it was not possible for him to confirm whether Russia had influenced his visit due the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
Taiwan stated last week that Mike Pompeo, former Secretary of State to the U.S., will visit Taiwan between March 2-5, and meet Tsai.
A White House official was quoted as describing that the five selected officials represent "an important signal about U.S. bipartisan commitment to Taiwan democracy and peace, and it demonstrates how the Biden administration remains committed to Taiwan in a larger sense."
Though the world and especial Western media has had a singular focus of late in the Ukraine crisis, a number of pundits have commented that if Beijing wanted to move on Taiwan at this tense moment for NATO and Eastern Europe, it would do so with perhaps little initial notice given the complete focus of Western leaders on Ukraine. This is perhaps part of Biden's rationale in sending the delegation... to send a message saying: 'we are still watching closely'.
Just days ago the US also sailed a warship through the Taiwan Strait, something which has now become a semi-regular occurrence. "The official stated that the United States would continue to be able to resist the use of force and other coercion to threaten the safety or social system or economy of Taiwanese people," Reuters quoted a senior official as underscoring.
Taiwan strongly condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine & violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty. Our government will continue to monitor the situation & respond as appropriate, while strengthening our defenses against cognitive warfare & disinformation operations. #StandWithUkraine pic.twitter.com/OuLFJW2stq— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) February 25, 2022
Last week as the war in Ukraine kicked off, China's foreign ministry said provocatively that Taiwan is "not Ukraine". As Nikkei described:
Taiwan is "not Ukraine" and has always been an inalienable part of China, China's foreign ministry said on Wednesday, as Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen called for the island to beef up vigilance on military activities in response to the crisis.
The comments come after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson flagged the risk for Taiwan in a warning last week about the damaging worldwide consequences if Western nations failed to fulfil their promises to support Ukraine's independence.
More broadly, many Western officials fear an emerging scenario where Moscow and Beijing increasingly act in concert. Earlier this month China issued an unprecedented and scathing critique of NATO expansion in Eastern Europe - echoing precisely the view from Moscow - while urging that Russia's legitimate security interests be met.