Taiwan drawing ‘lessons’ from Ukraine conflict
Taiwan has observed the conflict in Ukraine and drawn several lessons for its own confrontation with mainland China, the disputed island’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, told CNN in an interview aired on Sunday.
Wu argued that Beijing is hesitant to move on the island due to what he described as Russia’s lack of progress in Ukraine and the international community’s response.
Taiwan is “watching this very carefully,” Wu told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. “We try to see what we can learn from Ukraine in defending ourselves.”
Wu described Ukraine as being “on the frontline against Russia’s outward expansion,” and accused Russia of using the military “for its historical glory,” in what he said was a parallel to the China-Taiwan situation.
Taiwan’s two big takeaways from the conflict are that Ukraine is using “small personal weapons to go against a large enemy,” and that its male population is highly motivated. “They want to serve in the military. They want to go to the war zones to fight against Russia. That kind of spirit is enviable for the Taiwanese people,” Wu said.
Wu’s emphasis on “asymmetric capability,” such as Javelin and NLAW anti-tank rockets – widely promoted as wonder-weapons in Ukraine – is consistent with President Tsai Ing-wen’s government’s focus on such armaments. Tsai also hopes Washington would come to Taiwan’s aid directly, she told CNN in October.
“When there’s a war, we need friends and allies to support Taiwan, as in the case of Ukraine,” Wu told Zakaria, pointing to how the US, EU, and Japan came together to support Kiev.
Though the US has not sent troops to Ukraine, Washington is pouring money and weapons into the country “to fight against Russia,” Wu noted. “I think the Chinese government must be thinking or calculating how the US or other major countries are going to come to Taiwan’s help or whether they’re going to come to Taiwan’s help. If Taiwan does not have any support, I think that’s going to be a green light to aggression.”
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a speech last week that “a Global NATO” needs to arm Taiwan just as it has armed Ukraine, among other things. The day before CNN aired the interview with Wu, the Financial Times reported that the White House officials in charge of China and the Indo-Pacific have met with British colleagues to explore contingency plans about Taiwan.
Wu also argued that Ukraine’s ability to hold off Russia – which he attributed to “the desire to defend the country and the willingness to use personal weapons” – is giving Beijing reason to worry.
“If they are not able to take Taiwan over quickly, I think they need to pause and think twice before they act,” he said.
Beijing considers Taiwan part of China’s sovereign territory. Since 1949, the island has been ruled by the remnants of the nationalist government, which fled the mainland after defeat in the civil war.