Sen. Lindsey Graham on Sunday openly voiced fears about a potential Chinese blockade of Taiwan, a test to the U.S. he said could line up with the run-up to the 2024 presidential election.
“Taiwan’s not the problem,” he told host Shannon Bream on “Fox News Sunday.” “Lindsey Graham’s not the problem. It’s Putin and it’s Xi,” referring to the leaders of Russia and China and their expansionist aims.
But an increased American presence in the region, he said, could allay threats from the emboldened duo.
The remarks by Graham (R-S.C.) came amid military drills conducted by China in proximity to the island, a democracy which has long been claimed as a province by its massive northwestern neighbor.
And they come after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen traveled across the United States as part of a 10-day international tour, meeting with House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) in New York before jetting off to speak with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other key House foreign policy cogs outside Los Angeles.
It’s a trip that has resulted in fierce pushback from Chinese officials, who have sanctioned the two organizations that hosted her during the trip, the Hudson Institute and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and labeled the visit a “provocation.”
And now, a three-day spate of military exercises, a “stern warning,” as put by People’s Liberation Army officials, that are to end on Monday. Taiwan’s Defense Ministry counted 71 Chinese warplanes that crossed the Taiwan Strait on Saturday alone.
“I would up our game,” Graham said Sunday. “If you don’t up your game now, you are going to have a war.”
The South Carolina senator advocated for a series of deterrent measures that he said could stave off an eventual Chinese military takeover of Taiwan, which produces over 90% of the world’s most advanced semiconductors.
“I would increase training and get the F-16s they need in Taiwan,” Graham said. “There’s a backlog. I would solve that backlog. I would move war forces to South Korea and Japan. I would put nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on all of our submarines all over the world”
And in the event of an invasion, Graham, who said he believes in the long-standing One China Policy, would support sending U.S. troops to defend Taiwan.
Since the 1970s, the U.S. has maintained a commitment to the defense of Taiwan even while not officially recognizing the island as distinct from China. It’s a thin line — one that has increasingly blurred in recent years. A trip to Taiwan made by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last August piqued international interest and a frenzied Chinese response. The following month, President Joe Biden told Scott Pelley in a “60 Minutes” interview that U.S. forces would defend the island “if in fact there was an unprecedented attack.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and a bipartisan House delegation touched down in Taipei Thursday shortly before China began its military drills. The group discussed weapons sales, McCaul said. And they met with President Tsai, where McCaul talked up the importance of projecting strength and promoting peace.
“These are intimidation tactics and saber-rattling, in my judgment, only firm up our resolve against the Chinese Communist Party,” McCaul told Fox News on Saturday. “It has no deterrent effect on us. In fact, I think it galvanizes the United States’ support for Taiwan.”