Former Trump security adviser warns of Chinese ‘mischief’ in Taiwan by 2024

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WASHINGTON – China may consider military action against Taiwan by the next US presidential election in 2024, former US national security adviser Robert O’Brien recently told Nikkei, sounding the alarm bells. growing tensions in the Taiwan Strait.

O’Brien predicted that China would do nothing to jeopardize the Beijing Olympics in February. But Beijing is concerned that former President Donald Trump or a Chinese hawk like former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will win the White House in 2024, he said in a virtual interview.

“This window between the Olympics and the next presidential election could be a window in which President Xi thinks he has an opportunity to stir up trouble as far as Taiwan is concerned,” said O’Brien, who has served as president. special envoy to the president for hostage cases under Trump and became a national security adviser in September 2019.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly described Taiwan as a “central interest”, calling for its unification with the mainland. And since the summer, US President Joe Biden has twice appeared to suggest that America will defend Taiwan against an attack from China – appearing to break Washington’s long-standing “strategic ambiguity”.

The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 states that the United States “shall make available defense articles and defense services to Taiwan in quantities necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability.” But that does not explicitly engage the United States in the defense of the island. The White House reversed Biden’s two comments.

O’Brien suggested that Biden may have intentionally tried to get rid of China and dispel belief in Beijing that he would be lenient with an invasion against Taiwan.

“Once, maybe you’d say, ‘Maybe he misspoke,” “O’Brien said. “But he’s said it twice now, so he seems to have a plan, and he seems to be trying to sow doubt among the Chinese leadership.”

O’Brien also suggested that the Biden administration might respond to intelligence regarding China’s strategy on Taiwan. “They may be very concerned about China’s plans, and that could be the reason for President Biden’s statement,” he said.

“I think it is very important that the allies, that Japan, the United States, India, the United Kingdom, the European Union, make it very clear to China that the consequences of an invasion of Taiwan would be very serious, ”O’Brien said. “Not only militarily but also economically, for the people.”

He pointed out that Japan has a particularly strong reason for supporting peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

“If China and the Communist Party take over Taiwan, it separates Japan from the rest of the Pacific, from all the countries in the south – Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines,” and the rest of the Association Southeast Asian nations, he said. . “Japan is cut off from all these countries by the geopolitical rock that is Taiwan.”

Taiwan would give the Chinese military a solid base for operations in the Pacific beyond the First Island Chain, which stretches from the Japanese islands of Okinawa to the Philippines, which in turn could cut off major routes. trade of Japan.

O’Brien urged companies to prepare for a potential crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the resulting sanctions against China as well. Small and medium-sized enterprises doing business in China “must have plans, a) on how to diversify their supply chain or diversify their customer base, and b) what would happen if there was a contingency”, did he declare.

Overall, he said members of the Biden administration were doing a “good job” on Chinese policy. But he cautioned the United States against allowing China to exploit its bilateral cooperation on climate change without taking concrete action.

“They can make empty promises on climate change to gain advantage over trade, or Taiwan, or other areas. So we have to be careful of that,” he said.

On the Comprehensive and Progressive Trade Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, O’Brien said that “in principle, the idea of ​​a TPP is a very good idea”.

The idea of ​​having a trade bloc that believes in the rule of law, that believes in free trade, and is a counterweight to the PRC and to the “One belt, one road” initiative, is a good idea ” , he said, using the official initials and an earlier name for the Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

He warned that accepting China’s candidacy for membership would undermine the framework. “I think bringing them into the TPP would probably destroy the whole raison d’être of the TPP, which is to have a free and open trading system with the rule of law and fairness,” he said.

But he was less enthusiastic about the United States joining the cadre, which Trump withdrew on his first day in office. The United States needs to “make sure this is a deal that works for American workers and American families, as well as other countries” to get involved again, he said.

Since stepping down as a national security adviser, O’Brien has started the geopolitical consultancy firm American Global Securities. The company partnered in October with Kitamura Economic Security, founded by former Japanese national security adviser Shigeru Kitamura.

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