Declassified US Indo-Pacific security framework document shows commitment to defense of Taiwan

The surprise declassification of the U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific has revealed that the current US national defense policy for the Asia-Pacific region includes a commitment to developing a defense strategy capable of denying China air and sea dominance inside the “first island chain,” and “defending the first-island-chain nations, including Taiwan.”

The previously classified “secret” and “not for foreign nationals” document was developed in 2017, and has guided the Trump administration since 2018. The document was officially declassified last week, 30 years ahead of schedule, and was officially released to the public today, January 13.

Australia’s public broadcaster The Australian Broadcasting Corporation obtained a copy before release and published an analysis yesterday.

“This is a highly significant document. It’s extraordinary that it’s been released decades early, Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at the Australian National University, told the ABC’s 7:30 Report.

“I think it’s a signal about the kind of continuity that the permanent government of America, or if you like the officials, want to see in America’s relations with the Indo-Pacific, including in managing China’s power, Medcalf said.

Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, The Global Times, on the other hand, called the declassification part of a Trump administration strategy “to pressure Joe Biden to continue its hawkish policy toward China,” and urged the incoming US administration “not to fall into Trump’s trap.”

Robert C. O’Brien, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs attached a statement to the document, and wrote “the declassification of the Framework today demonstrates, with transparency, America’s strategic commitments to the Indo-Pacific and to our allies and partners in the region.”

The directly Taiwan-related parts of the framework, ie: those parts where Taiwan is actually named, include an assumption that “China will take increasingly assertive steps to compel unification with Taiwan.” (page 2).

On page five an objective is stated to “Enable Taiwan to develop an effective asymmetric defense strategy and capabilities that will help ensure its security, freedom from coercion, resilience, and ability to engage China on its own terms.”

Under “Countering China’s Economic Aggression,” statements include: “Engage South Korea, Taiwan, Mongolia, Japan, and other regional democratic partners to demonstrate their own successes and the benefits they have accrued.”

Under the objective “Deter China from using military force against the United States and US allies or partners…” action is demanded to “Devise and implement a defense strategy capable of, but not limited to: denying China sustained air and sea dominance inside the “first island chain” in a conflict; defending the first-island-chain nations, including Taiwan; and dominating all domains outside of the first island chain.”

Rory Medcalf, quoted in the January 12 ABC report mentioned above, penned an article on the Australian Strategic Policy institute’s website The Strategist yesterday, January 13, stating that:

“The slightly reassuring news is that beneath President Donald Trump’s unpredictability, conceit and unilateralism, the policy professionals were striving to advance a more serious and coherent agenda.”

Medcalf suggests that lead authorship of the strategic framework can be attributed to national security advisors who are above the current political fray in Washington, and that the strategic policy was “in substantial part informed and driven by allies and partners, especially Japan, Australia, and India.”

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