HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs


Taiwan has inherent military value, and thus its fate will in large part determine the U.S. military’s ability to operate in the region. As Assistant Secretary of Defense Ely Ratner noted, “Taiwan is located at a critical node within the first island chain, anchoring a network of U.S. allies and partners—stretching from the Japanese archipelago down to the Philippines and into the South China Sea—that is critical to the region’s security and critical to the defense of vital U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific.”98 With Taiwan outside of its control and U.S. allies and partners arrayed throughout the first island chain, the PLA will struggle to project power far beyond China's shores. If China were to annex Taiwan and base military assets, such as underwater surveillance devices, submarines, and air defense units on the island, however, it would be able to limit the U.S. military’s operations in the region and in turn its ability to defend its Asian allies.99 U.S. policymakers should therefore understand that it is not only Taiwan’s future at stake but also the future of the first island chain and the ability to preserve U.S. access and influence throughout the Western Pacific.


Sacks, David, Meghan O'Sullivan, et al. "U.S.-Taiwan Relations in a New Era: Responding to a More Assertive China." Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force Report, June 2023.