Johnson focuses on threats from China, support for NATO, Taiwan in major speech

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Speaker Mike Johson (R-La.) on Monday outlined his vision for a foreign policy that bridges the historical Republican view of leadership in the world with criticism from former President Trump that allies are exploiting U.S. investments in defense. 

Johnson, delivering his first comprehensive foreign policy speech at the Hudson Institute, argued for “a U.S.-led, America First Coalition that advances the security interest of Americans and engages abroad with the interests of working families and businesses here at home, a coalition that’s good for everybody.” 

Speaking ahead of the NATO summit that kicks off in Washington this week, Johnson echoed criticisms from Trump focused on the nine NATO allies who had yet to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending.

He slammed as “shameful” Canada’s new defense policy plan that will increase defense spending to 1.76 percent by 2030. 

“Talk about riding America’s coat tails, they have the safety and security of being on our border,” he said while expressing support for the alliance, which is a frequent target of Trump’s ire. 

“Republicans celebrate the peace and prosperity NATO has secured, and we’ll continue to stand by our partners as we prevent needless wars,” Johnson said.

He also spoke about the importance of defending Taiwan – a departure from Trump’s ambiguity on whether the U.S. would come to the defense of democratic, self-governing island, which is facing aggression from China. 

“If for no other reason, semiconductors,” Johnson said in response to a question why it’s important to America that Taiwan remain safe and secure. 

“Imagine China being in charge of all the semiconductor production in the world, and controlling the trade routes through that part of overseas trade, it’s an unimaginable prospect. We defend freedom of people, we stand for freedom, the nation of Taiwan is important to defend for all of its merits, but it’s also directly in our economic, stability interests.”

Still, Johnson cited the influence of former President Reagan’s approach to foreign policy of investing in a strong U.S. military and partnering with allies, to deter threats from adversaries. 

“Reagan said, ‘We are indeed, and we are today the last best hope of man on Earth,’” Johnson noted.

The mention is a call to the wing of Republicans in Congress who were key influencers on Johnson’s decision to move forward with President Biden’s $95 billion national security supplemental in April. Johnson had to overcome opposition from the majority of Republicans to pass a bill that delivered military and economic aid for Ukraine, calling it a “Churchill or Chamberlain moment for our country.” 

“I think we did the right thing,” Johnson said of the bill’s passage. 

He also referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “ruthless dictator,” and spoke in support of continuing to help Ukraine push back Russia’s aggression as a benefit to the U.S. and NATO. 

“I think people who study these issues understand and there’s a consensus that he would not stop at Kyiv but he would set up on the border of Poland, the Baltic states, and we would be in a NATO situation and there might be a need for our own troops to go and defend those borders against an invasion, it’s a very, very serious time.”

Johnson named America’s adversaries as a grouping of countries led by China – including Russia, North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. 

During his speech, he committed to extending the mandate of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party into the next Congress, a bipartisan committee that succeeded in drafting the bill to ban TikTok and has published a wide-ranging investigation into the Chinese government’s underwriting of the export of precursor chemicals for fentanyl. 

Additionally, Johnson committed to bringing to the floor a number of bills focused on countering China, including the BIOSECURE Act, to halt federal contracts with biotech companies “connected to foreign adversaries.” The bill was introduced by former chair of the Select Committee on China, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), and the ranking member of the committee, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.). 

Johnson also talked about increasing sanctions on Chinese military firms providing material to Russia and Iran, more restrictions on outbound investments to China. 

And in a nod to Trump’s tariffs imposed on China during his administration, Johnson committed to “rein in the de minimis privilege for any good subject to Section 301 trade enforcement tariffs, to stymie China’s attempts to exploit American trade.”

“China poses the greatest threat to global peace,Congress must keep our focus on countering China with every tool at our disposal,” Johnson said. “In the short time remaining in this Congress, the House will be voting on a series of bills to empower the next Administration to hit our enemies’ economies on day one.”

And in a pitch for another term as Speaker if Republicans win the House in November, Johnson laid out priorities for the next Congress, to include major spending cuts, “unleashing our energy sector,” a focus on border security and investing more in the military. 

“If we’re going to present a credible deterrent to our adversaries, we have to rebuild while also being fiscally responsible,” he said. 

“I can promise you that come 2025, spending reform will be a top priority for our new Republican majority, they’re not going to be easy conversations, but they are essential for our long term survival.”

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