(CNSNews.com) – As China’s People’s Liberation Army continued war games near Taiwan including simulated attacks against the island, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) voiced concern on Sunday that Beijing may be “setting the stage” for a possible blockade of Taiwan.
To deter any such move, he told “Fox News Sunday,” the U.S. should make clear it would respond by blocking oil shipments to China from the Middle East.
Graham also said he would support the use of U.S. armed forces to defend Taiwan against Chinese aggression.
After threatening “strong and resolute measures” in response to Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in Los Angeles last week, China on Saturday launched what it said were three days of military drills to the north, east, and south of Taiwan.
The Taiwanese military has reported scores of PLA fighter jets, bombers, and other warplanes and more than 10 warships crossing the median line dividing the strait or entering Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
The PLA’s Eastern Theater Command said the drills included simulated missile strikes “against key targets on the Taiwan island and its surrounding waters.”
A spokesperson for the command described the exercises, code-named Joint Sword, as a stern warning against “the provocative activities of ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces and their collusion with external forces.”
Taipei is also monitoring drills being carried out southeast of the island by the PLA Navy’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier, the Shandong.
Graham said he believed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was planning to test the United States “dramatically,” this year and next.
Recalling the attempts by the Soviet Union to isolate West Berlin in 1961, Graham said he was “fearful that the Chinese may be setting conditions to blockade Taiwan in the coming months or weeks.”
“And we need to respond forcefully if they do that, we need to blockade oil shipments coming from the Mideast to China, and let them know, if you blockade Taiwan we’re going to cut off your oil.”
Graham also said the U.S. needs to train Taiwanese forces “more aggressively,” return nuclear-tipped cruise missiles to its submarines (President George H.W. Bush ordered their withdrawal in 1991), and deploy more forces in South Korea and Japan – in order to deter a blockade.
Beijing regards Taiwan as an indisputable part of China and has not ruled out the use of force, if necessary, to achieve its reunification with the mainland.
Across multiple administrations the U.S. has maintained a carefully-balanced policy of “strategic ambiguity,” acknowledging but not endorsing China’s claims to Taiwan and not recognizing Taiwanese sovereignty. The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act commits the U.S. to provide the island with the military assistance needed to defend itself.
Graham said on Sunday that “strategic ambiguity” is not working, and that after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in mid-2021 “China believes that the store is open, that you can go in and take whatever you want on Biden’s watch.”
“So the question for the Congress: Should we have a defense agreement with the island of Taiwan? We don’t. Should we have one?”
“But yes, I’d be very much open to using U.S. forces to defend Taiwan, because it’s in our national security interest to do so.”
On the question of that national interest, Graham earlier during the interview said that 90 percent of “high-end chips” are made in Taiwan – a reference to semiconductors that are critical components in modern electronic technology.
If China seized Taiwan, he said, “they’d have a monopoly on the digital economy.”
Tough words on China also came Sunday from Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), chairman of the House select committee on strategic competition between the U.S. and CCP, who said Beijing was trying to intimidate and “bully” the U.S. with its wargames around Taiwan.
“We need to stand up for freedom,” Gallagher told Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures. “And we need to support our friends in Taiwan, specifically by giving them the weapons that they have purchased from us, which have been backlogged. We have a $19 billion backlog of weapons. That’s unacceptable.”
Foreign military sales items that have been approved for Taiwan but not delivered include F-16 fighters, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).
The Pentagon has ascribed the holdups to difficulties facing the defense industry base including supply chain and labor challenges, and says Taiwan is not alone to be affected.
Gallagher said the U.S. should be “moving heaven and earth to surge power out to the Indo- Pacific before it’s too late, before we have another war on our hands.”
“I think the Harpoon anti-ship missiles are the most important,” he said. “I remain convinced that there’s more we can do to move Taiwan to the front of the line – ahead of Saudi Arabia, for example – when it comes to Harpoon deliveries.”
The U.S. could also explore the possibility of providing licenses for certain weapons systems to enable the Taiwanese to produce them domestically, Gallagher said.
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