National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien warned China against retaking Taiwan by force at an event in Las Vegas on Wednesday. O’Brien explained that amphibious assaults are difficult, and said there is a lot of ambiguity around what the US response would be to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
O’Brien told the event that China was undergoing a massive naval buildup. “Part of that is to give them the ability to push us back out of the Western Pacific, and allow them to engage in an amphibious landing in Taiwan,” he said. “The problem with that is that amphibious landings are notoriously difficult.” O’Brien pointed out the 100-mile distance between mainland China and Taiwan.
“It’s not an easy task, and there’s also a lot of ambiguity about what the United States would do in response to an attack by China on Taiwan,” he said. There are questions about what the US would actually do in the event of an invasion of Taiwan.
China hawks in Congress have introduced a bill called the Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act, which would authorize the president to use military force if Beijing attempted to forcibly reunify Taiwan. A version of the bill has been introduced in both the House and the Senate.
O’Brien also called encouraged Taiwan to increase its defense spending, echoing the sentiment of US officials at the US-Taiwan Defense Industry Conference, which was held earlier this week.
“You can’t just spend 1 percent of your GDP [gross domestic product], which the Taiwanese have been doing — 1.2 percent — on defense, and hope to deter a China that’s been engaged in the most massive military build up in 70 years,” O’Brien said.
Arms sales to Taiwan are lucrative for US weapons makers. The US is Taiwan’s top weapons supplier, and the island is a leading customer. In the 2019 fiscal year, Taiwan requested more weapons from the US than any other country.