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Ukraine's stand is a model for fighting a Chinese attack, Taiwan's top diplomat says

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu speaks Oct. 26 at the Globsec forum in Bratislava, Slovakia, during his visit to Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
Vladimir Simicek
/
AFP via Getty Images
Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu speaks Oct. 26 at the Globsec forum in Bratislava, Slovakia, during his visit to Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

If China should attack Taiwan—a possibility that President Biden warned against this week—the island's defenders plan to draw on lessons from the war in Ukraine.

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu tells NPR his government would use Ukraine's techniques for fending off a much larger enemy. Taiwanese troops would do the fighting using international support, asymmetric warfare and mass mobilization of the population.

"Defending Taiwan is our own responsibility," Wu said. "What we need is international support — speaking out to support us and to provide us with the necessary means for us to be able to defend ourselves."

Wu recorded the interview late last week, amid growing concern about the island's future. Taiwan has thrived in ambiguity for decades: China claims the island but hasn't attacked it; Taiwan is a democracy but hasn't proclaimed independence; and the U.S. supports Taiwan even though it does not formally recognize it or have a formal military alliance with it.

Now that ambiguity is fading. President Biden has twice said the U.S. would defend Taiwan, most recently on Monday. Qin Gang, China's ambassador to Washington, told NPR early this year that the U.S. was risking "military conflict."

Taiwan's foreign minister said his country intends to avoid war. "We will maintain the status quo," he said. Taiwan is not seeking formal independence. But if a conflict should ever come, Wu said his government may adopt tactics tested 5,000 miles away against the Russian invaders of Ukraine.

He said he was "watching very closely" discussions in the U.S. Senate about a Taiwan aid bill that would include financing for weapons.

"We are taking the war in Ukraine into a very serious internal discussions," he said. "The Ukrainian people are very brave, and one of the tactics that has been successful so far is the asymmetric capability. And that is something that we are learning from and we want to discuss further with the United States."

Wu said he was referring to Ukraine's use of shoulder-fired Stinger and Javelin missiles, which allow a single Ukrainian soldier to destroy an expensive Russian aircraft or tank. He said Taiwan has such weapons and wants to stockpile more.

He said Taiwan is watching Ukraine's mass mobilization of its populace. Ukrainian men were required not to leave the country, and to stand ready to be called into military service.

"That is something that we also want to learn from," Wu said. Taiwan "has established a agency it's called All Out Mobilization Agency, and the purpose of it is to mobilize the society in general."

Wu also appeared to confirm, in general terms, reports that U.S. troops have helped to train Taiwanese military units. "I cannot explain to you in too much detail, but I can tell you that the two sides have been working very closely, and the Taiwanese military benefits tremendously from the joint cooperation and wisdom with the U.S. military."

He added that the U.S. and Taiwan continue "very high level national security discussions" as they watch China.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: May 26, 2022 at 9:00 PM PDT
The story has been edited for clarity, regarding Wu's remarks on "the status quo."
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.