The surprising remarks were made by Ms Truss while giving evidence to a Commons committee on Monday. At present, Britain has no defence or diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which it is feared could be invaded by China, with Beijing increasingly hostile towards Taipei.
Miss Truss said: “There is always a tendency, and we’ve seen this prior to the Ukraine war, of wishful thinking, to hope more bad things won’t happen and to wait until it is too late.
“We should have done things earlier, we should have been supplying 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.”
China has more warships than the US and more than 2,000 combat aircraft. It was unclear last night how the UK could change the balance of military power.
A parliamentary report published earlier this year revealed the Royal Navy cannot fulfil all the Government’s existing ambitions – before any consideration is given to handing expensive equipment to the Taiwanese.
The Royal Navy has increased its presence in the South China Sea in recent years, with vessels conducting freedom of navigation patrols intended to deter the Chinese.
In an address to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) defence conference yesterday, the UK’s Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Patrick Saunders, said Britain ‘cannot ignore the exponential rise and chronic challenge of China’. But he stopped short of advocating arming Taiwan.
READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon announces ‘route map’ to Indyref2
Sir Patrick’s focus was on Russia and the imminent threat to mainland Europe, in particular the Baltic states, posed by Vladimir Putin.
He said Russia could be more dangerous after the Ukrainian conflict than before and he wants thousands more troops to be placed on high readiness and sent to defend eastern Europe.
He added: “It is worth remembering that historically Russia often starts wars badly. Its resilience means it can suffer any number of campaigns, battles and engagements lost, regenerate and still, ultimately, prevail.
“While Russia’s conventional capability will be much reduced – for a time, at least – Putin’s intention to restore the lands of ‘historic Russia’ make any respite temporary.
Brits brace for thundery showers as unsettled weather rumbles
Warning for Putin as NATO pledges 300K troops on high readiness
Horror as Kyiv Mayor warns NATO ‘you are next’
“The threat will become more acute. In most scenarios Russia will be an even greater threat to European security after Ukraine than it was before.
“And if you want to avert conflict, you’d better be prepared to fight.”