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Updated Feb 5, 2024, 5:34pm EST
politicsNorth America

US failure to fund Ukraine and Israel could make war in Taiwan more likely: Rep. Krishnamoorthi

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) speaks at a Semafor event on Feb. 5, 2024.
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​​Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., said Monday he’s worried that Congress failing to pass the bipartisan border bill tied to Ukraine and Israel aid could make the U.S. look weak to China, increasing the risk of war in Taiwan. The Illinois Democrat also confirmed he plans to visit Taiwan to meet with the island’s newly-elected president, though no date has been set for the trip.

Speaking at a Principals Live event in Washington, Krishnamoorthi, the ranking member of the House Select Committee on China, said U.S. leadership’s lack of consensus on funding aid to Ukraine and Israel could suggest that the nation isn’t prepared to defend its allies.

“I am concerned how our friends and partners and allies would view us if we don’t pass the supplemental, but I’m also equally concerned how our potential adversaries would view us,” he told Semafor’s Morgan Chalfant.

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Krishnamoorthi said Chinese President Xi Jinping has been paying close attention to the supplemental and “would view it as a sign of weakness if we didn’t pass it, making war in Taiwan more likely.” Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Secretary of Defense Leon Edward Panetta testified as much in a congressional hearing last week.

The bill was the product of months of negotiations between Democrats, who want to continue funding Ukraine and Israel, and Republicans, who demanded that aid be conditioned on an overhaul of U.S. immigration policy. The package combines those priorities and also contains nearly $5 billion for American interests in the Indo-Pacific, including funds for replenishing American weapons stores in Taiwan, according to the bill’s text released Sunday.

But Republicans immediately declared the deal “dead on arrival,” saying its immigration reforms didn’t go nearly far enough.

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While Krishnamoorthi said he doesn’t think the U.S.’ lack of strength on the supplemental is pushing Taiwan into China’s arms, he added that it’s still creating potentially dangerous instability that would make it harder fro the U.S. and Taiwan to “deter aggression” from the Chinese Communist Party.

A Chinese invasion or something short of one is also a concern over the next several years, Krishnamoorthi said, noting that Xi has instructed the Chinese army to be ready to successfully invade Taiwan and “reunify” the lands by 2027.

“We have to take that very seriously,” he said, “and that’s why we have to move very quickly to pass the supplemental, but also do other things to make sure Taiwan has what it needs under the Taiwan Relations Act to defend itself and to deter or discourage any kind of military incursion.”

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Asked whether he thinks President Biden’s administration is doing enough to prepare for that possibility, Krishnamoorthi said yes, “but of course we need to do more.”

During the wide-ranging interview with Semafor, Krishnamoorthi also said he does not want a full ban of the Chinese-owned app TikTok, and rebuked China for not cracking down on exporting precursor chemicals that are fueling the U.S. fentanyl crisis. He also warned that the U.S. needs to be vigilant about potential Chinese election interference ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

On the U.S.’ economic rivalry with China, he said that relations could get “much more normal” if China decides to “play by the rules” and stop engaging in economic aggression. He added that change is possible now, especially with China’s deep economic troubles, and expressed skepticism over the accuracy of Beijing’s data.

“I think that the depth of the economic slide in China is much greater than anything that we can see looking at their data,” Krishnamoorthi said. “I think their data is cooked. I can’t believe anything that comes out of China.”

He said that the U.S. wasn’t headed towards a partial decoupling with China, adding, “I think it’s going to be diversifying the portfolio.”

On China’s domination over electric vehicles, Krishnamoorthi said the U.S. needed to find a way to break into the supply chain market. He expressed concerns that China could get too powerful in that space and end up having coercive power over the U.S.’ market.

“I think the world sees EVs as being the future,” he said. “And I think that even my colleagues on the other side know that electric vehicles are going to be very, very important to the American economy.”

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