Boris Johnson and his ministers are going into the Nato summit with fresh warnings that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has shown the need for extra vigilance and caution over potential Chinese action against Taiwan.
Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, who is joining the prime minister at the Nato gathering in Madrid, was most explicit, calling for faster action to help Taiwan with defensive weapons, a key requirement for Ukraine since the invasion.
“There’s always a tendency – and we’ve seen this prior to the Ukraine war – there’s always a tendency of wishful thinking, to hope that more bad things won’t happen and to wait until it’s too late,” Truss told the Commons foreign affairs committee. Her words went well beyond the standard government language on the issue.
“We should have done things earlier, we should have been supplying the defensive weapons into Ukraine earlier. We need to learn that lesson for Taiwan. Every piece of equipment we have sent takes months of training, so the sooner we do it, the better.”
Johnson has been more wary about referring to China directly, but in comments on Monday likening the need to support Ukraine with the second world war, he said the impact of allowing a Russian victory would “also be felt in east Asia”.
On his plane as he travelled from the G7 summit in southern Germany to Madrid, Johnson was asked by reporters about the comment and whether Taiwan needed more support.
“I just think it’s very important that countries around the world should not be able to read across from events in Europe and draw the conclusion that the world will simply stand idly by if boundaries are changed by force,” he said. “That’s one of the most important lessons that we pick up from Ukraine.”
Taiwan has governed itself since nationalist forces fled to the island after the Communist party took control of China in 1949. Beijing considers Taiwan a rebel province and has regularly threatened to retake it by force.
At the Commons hearing, Truss also promised MPs she would come up with a standalone foreign policy strategy for relations with China.
“I am very happy to go away and look at this. I am very clear we have a China strategy which I am currently implementing in everything I do, but in terms of a written document I will go away and look at that,” she said.