Ukraine was likely to influence China on Taiwan, US intelligence chiefs say

US intelligence chiefs on Tuesday said they were monitoring how China was interpreting the war in Ukraine and said the swift western reaction would probably influence Beijing’s calculus over its goal of securing control of Taiwan.

Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, said China had noted the sanctions the US and its allies have imposed on Russia and understood the implications for how Washington might respond to an attack on Taiwan.

“It is likely to reinforce China’s perspective on the seriousness with which we would approach an infringement on Taiwan and in the unity that they’ve seen between Europe and the US,” Haines told the House Intelligence Committee when asked if Russia’s western response invasion would make Beijing more reluctant to take military action.

“The impact of those sanctions. . . are critical to their calculus and something that will be interesting for us to see how they learn those lessons, ”Haines said.

Bill Burns, director of the CIA, said he agreed that the US response to the Russian invasion had created “an impact on the Chinese calculus” over Taiwan. But he said it was important not to assume that President Xi Jinping had less resolve as a result.

“I would not underestimate President Xi and the Chinese leadership’s determination with regard to Taiwan,” he said, adding that Beijing had been surprised by the “strength of the western reaction”.

The intelligence chiefs gave their testimony one week after US President Joe Biden dispatched a high-level delegation of former officials to Taiwan to send a message of support and warn Beijing not to take advantage of Washington’s focus on Ukraine to engage in increasingly assertive military action. The delegation was led by Mike Mullen, the former chair of the joint chiefs of staff.

Some experts believe the situation in Ukraine might embolden China to take military action against Taiwan, which Beijing claims as part of its territory. But others caution the invasion presents fewer lessons for the security of Taiwan given the different nature of its relationship with the US.

While neither Taiwan nor Ukraine is a US ally, Washington must provide Taipei with the ability to defend itself under the Taiwan Relations Act. It also has a policy of “strategic ambiguity” under which it does not say whether it would defend Taiwan if it came under Chinese attack.

Biden has made clear that the US will not send troops to Ukraine to help the country repel Russian forces.

Asked whether Russia’s invasion would embolden China to conduct a full-scale attack or blockade of Taiwan, Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, urged lawmakers to separate the two issues.

“Taiwan and Ukraine are two different things completely. Our deterrence posture in the Pacific puts a very different perspective on all of this, ”he said, before adding that China was watching“ very carefully ”what was happening in Ukraine.

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