TAIPEI, Taiwan — Maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is “not just a U.S. interest, but also a global one,” former Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen said Wednesday during a visit to Taiwan that comes amid the backdrop of Russia’s war against Ukraine.
Peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region have “never been more important," Mullen said in remarks to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
“We come to Taiwan at a very difficult and critical moment in world history. As President Biden has said, democracy is facing sustained and alarming challenges, most recently in Ukraine," Mullen said. “Now more than ever, democracy needs champions."
The Ukraine conflict has drawn some parallels to China’s threat to use force to annex Taiwan, a self-governing island democracy it considers its own territory. China has sought to diplomatically isolate Tsai's administration, flown military aircraft into the island's air defense identification zone and held threatening military exercises nearby.
The sides are separated by the 160-kilometer (100 mile) -wide Taiwan Strait, and any Chinese attempt to attack or invade would entail considerable risk, along with the possibility of involving the U.S. and other regional powers in the conflict.
The U.S. provides Taiwan with defensive arms and is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself and treat all threats to it as matters of “grave concern.”
Mullen said the visit by his delegation “reflects the bipartisan nature of support for the United States’ strong partnership with Taiwan.”
In her remarks, Tsai emphasized that Taiwan would continue to bolster its defenses against China and said the resistance of the Ukrainian people was an inspiration.
“As a member of the international community, Taiwan not only expresses severe condemnation, but also participates in international sanctions against Russia and initiates humanitarian assistance to Ukraine," Tsai said.
“Now is the time for democracies in the world to unite, and Taiwan cannot be absent," she said.
Separately, former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to arrive in Taiwan on Wednesday. Pompeo, who earlier led the Central Intelligence Agency, will also meet with Tsai and address a forum, according to the Foreign Ministry.