ASPEN, Colo. — The Biden administration is bolstering U.S. arms production to sustain the war in Ukraine and to support Taiwan in preparing to fend off a future Russian-style invasion from China, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said.
Mr. Sullivan told a major security conference Friday that the administration is urging Taiwan’s political and military leaders to purchase arms better suited to fighting the Chinese military if Beijing launches an invasion of the democratically ruled island.
Because of the need to produce more weapons faster, the Pentagon is working on ways to increase the capacity of the American defense industrial base, as well as allied defense industries, to make sure weapons and other military equipment can be produced to deter adversaries, he said.
The weaponry, Mr. Sullivan said, includes all types of artillery, coastal defenses and naval mines.
The United States has sent more than $5.6 billion in weapons and other security aid to Ukraine’s military forces, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles and sophisticated artillery, as it deals with an invasion of Russian forces that marked its five-month milestone Sunday.
The aid shipments are raising questions about whether U.S. military stocks can be replenished and whether similar arms would be available to assist Taiwan should China use military force against the island.
“There are longer-term questions about ensuring that the American industrial base and our allies’ defense industrial base can be put in a position to sustain the kind of security assistance that we are going to need to keep supplying Ukraine, as well as Taiwan — as well as ourselves — to ensure that we are maintaining a proper level of deterrence,” Mr. Sullivan said in remarks to the Aspen Security Forum, an annual conference in Colorado.
Strengthening the ability to produce more weapons will require increased investment, a larger industrial workforce and a new emphasis on supply chains that provide components for maintaining weapons systems, especially munitions, he said.
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks is heading up the effort.
“We’ve got a good strategy, and we’re working it,” Mr. Sullivan said.
The White House adviser said there is some overlap between the kinds of weapons sent to Ukraine and what Taiwan would need against a Chinese military assault.
“There are also some big differences because of the nature of the contingency; the conflict can be quite different from land war in Europe and a potential contingency across the Taiwan Strait,” Mr. Sullivan said.
Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, amplified Mr. Sullivan’s concerns about China on a visit Sunday to Indonesia. He told reporters that the Chinese air and naval forces had become “significantly more and noticeably more aggressive in this particular region” over the past five years. It was the first visit to Jakarta by a head of the Joint Chiefs, the Pentagon’s top military officer, in almost 15 years and was a sign of growing U.S. and allied concern over Beijing’s outreach to island nations across the South Pacific in recent weeks.
“This is concerning because China is not doing it just for benign reasons,” Gen. Milley told reporters traveling with him Sunday, according to The Associated Press. “They’re trying to expand their influence throughout the region. And that has potential consequences that are not necessarily favorable to our allies and partners in the region.”
Mr. Sullivan said Friday that the administration “accelerated dramatically” previous administrations’ efforts to provide Taiwan with more asymmetric warfare capabilities that would lend themselves to Ukrainian-style defense of the island, located about 100 miles off the southern coast of China.
The “porcupine strategy” will supply arms and other military forces “that are going to be most useful in the kinds of contingencies we can expect,” he said.
The administration has been urging Taiwanese leaders to seek U.S. weapons better suited to repelling an amphibious assault from China, U.S. defense officials said.
The pressure involves persuading the Taiwanese military to buy fewer aircraft and more systems like M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers, and HIMARS rocket artillery launchers. Precision-strike HIMARS artillery was sent to Ukraine, although the 190-mile-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) was denied because of concern that it would be too provocative to the Kremlin.
Additional shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Harpoon anti-ship weaponry also could be sent to Taiwan as part of the strategy. Coastal air-defense missiles, armed drones and sea mines are part of the planned post-Ukraine defense upgrade.
Earlier in the conference, CIA Director William Burns and British MI6 intelligence chief Richard Moore said China is closely studying Russian military operations and Ukrainian defenses in the European conflict.
One troubling lesson is that Beijing may not be deterred from attacking Taiwan because the Chinese will see the faults of the Russian military operation and say, “How do we do it better?” Mr. Sullivan said. He added that he is not predicting an invasion of the island.
Mr. Sullivan said Taiwan also is studying the war. “They are learning lessons about citizen mobilization, and they are working rapidly at that,” he said.
Should Ukraine prevail and ultimately win the war against Russia, the success could help deter China from its goal of taking over Taiwan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has said retaking Taiwan, which broke from the mainland in a civil war between communists and nationalists, is a high priority.
“I do think that part of our objective in Ukraine has to be able to show strength, resilience, staying power, candidness, capability, because that will have some impact on our ability to effectively deter others elsewhere,” Mr. Sullivan said.
U.S. policy toward Taiwan has not changed despite President Biden’s three public statements asserting that the United States would defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack, Mr. Sullivan said.
The policy of “strategic ambiguity” regarding whether Beijing or Taipei is the sole government of Taiwan has kept peace and stability across the strait and therefore should be kept in place, he said.
The national security adviser outlined the administration’s policy toward China, which involves investing in U.S. strengths, aligning with allies and competing in all areas: military, economic, technological and soft power.
However, the strategy calls for not allowing competition to “drift or trip into conflict or a new cold war,” Mr. Sullivan said.
“That is how we try to approach things,” he said. “I believe that we have hit our marks in terms of what we set out to do.”
The administration is attempting to counter the Chinese propaganda narrative in Asia and elsewhere that China inevitably will surpass the United States as the world’s most powerful nation and that U.S. decline is inevitable.
“It’s never a good bet to bet against the United States of America,” Mr. Sullivan said.
China has its own economic troubles and is failing in its draconian “zero-COVID” policy aimed at stemming outbreaks of the disease.
“I think there are real questions about what [China’s] trajectory is going forward, and that is something countries both near and far from China are having to factor in,” he said.