By Kanishka Singh and Costas Pitas
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said on Monday he would aim to deter China from invading Taiwan if he wins the 2024 presidential election, saying China would refrain from such an attack if the costs outweighed the benefits.
“So my policy is going to be to deter that from happening,” DeSantis, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, told Fox News on Monday when asked what he would do if China invaded Taiwan.
“China respects hard power. If they think the costs are going to exceed any potential benefits, they are not going to do it,” the Florida governor said in the interview.
DeSantis said such deterrence would involve both “hard power” in the region, an apparent reference to U.S. military power, as well as economic levers that the U.S. could pull.
U.S.-China relations have been tense for years over a range of national security and trade issues, including China’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan. Among the other sore points are U.S. export bans on advanced technologies, China’s state-led industrial policies, human-rights issues, the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic and trade tariffs.
The Biden administration has sought to take a step toward repairing ties between the world’s two biggest economies through recent visits to China by senior U.S. officials.
DeSantis criticized President Joe Biden’s handling of the China-Taiwan issue. “I do think under Biden we are on a course where in the next five or 10 years, they probably would be able to take it,” he said, referring to China and Taiwan. “If we change course I think we can prevent it.”
DeSantis, like other Republican candidates, has been hawkish on China and has called it “the No. 1 geopolitical threat” for the United States.
Former President Donald Trump currently leads the Republican field in public opinion polls, with DeSantis a distant second.
In a separate interview published on Monday in the Wall Street Journal, DeSantis said he would consider a national ban on Chinese-owned short video app TikTok.
“I am inclined to not want TikTok in the United States,” DeSantis told the newspaper.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington and Costas Pitas in Los AngelesEditing by Matthew Lewis)