Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo Sheng has warned that China will have the ability to launch an invasion on the island by 2025, in the first clear warning from his government about the possibility of an armed conflict and amid an escalation of the tensions between Beijing and Taipei, after almost 150 Chinese military planes have flown over the vicinity of Taiwanese airspace in four days.
“It is the hardest situation in which I have found myself in more than 40 years of military life,” said Chiu, in an intervention before the Legislative Yuan, the Taiwanese Parliament, in a session to analyze the Government’s request to approve a extraordinary budget of 8,900 million dollars (about 7,710 million euros) for the purchase of weapons in the next five years. Part of that game would be dedicated to acquiring anti-ship systems. Another part, to the development of supersonic missiles.
In fact, China would already be able to attack the island if it wanted to, the minister specified. “But they have to calculate at what price, and what results they would get.” Instead, “as of 2025 they will have already lowered that price and possible losses to the lowest possible level, so they will have full capacity.”
Beijing considers Taiwan part of its territory and has never renounced force as a way to achieve unification. Since October 1, its national holiday, China has sent 149 aircraft to fly over the Taiwanese air defense zone, including bombers capable of carrying nuclear warheads and fighters. In this time, in three days it broke the record – with 38, 39 and 52 aircraft respectively – of aircraft shipped in a single day since Taipei began publishing those figures last year, when Beijing made such incursions a common practice. The number carried out these first days of October already represents more than all the incursions registered in September.
So far the Chinese government has not given an official explanation for the sudden increase in the number of air raids in the vicinity of the democratically ruled island. The flights seem linked, on the one hand, to the national holiday of the People’s Republic and the sending of a nationalist message to its own public. On the other hand, they represent a reaction to the military maneuvers that the United States develops in the area together with its allies Japan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Relations between Beijing and Taipei, already difficult since President Tsai Ing Wen came to power in 2016, have deteriorated since the re-election of the leader of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) and the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, both in January 2020. Tsai and her government maintain a line of distancing themselves from China and rapprochement with the United States, and the Government of Xi Jinping considers the Taiwanese leader a defender of the island’s independence movement.
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The United States, required by law to defend Taiwan in the event of an attack, warned Beijing against air raids on Sunday. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki assured that Washington’s commitment to Taipei is “solid as a rock.”
On Tuesday night, US President Joe Biden claimed that he had spoken with Xi Jinping about Taiwan and both had agreed to respect the the status quo of the island. “We agree… to abide by the settlement on Taiwan. We have made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement, “Biden told reporters upon returning from a trip to Michigan.
China and the United States respect the “One China” principle, the recognition that there is only one country called China and its representative is the Government of Beijing. Beyond that, their interpretations differ. For China, that principle includes Taiwan in its territory. For Washington it is a “policy” that does not specify the status of Taiwan; it recognizes neither its independence nor the sovereignty of Beijing over the island.
The situation in Taiwan will surely be one of the dominant issues at the meeting held in Geneva on Wednesday by the White House National Security Advisor, Jack Sullivan, and the Chinese State Councilor, Yang Jiechi.
In an article for the magazine Foreign Affairs Posted on Tuesday, Tsai appealed to the international community to support Taipei in the face of Chinese pressure. “If Taiwan fell, the consequences would be catastrophic for regional peace and the system of democratic alliances. It would send the message that in the competition of values in the world, authoritarianism prevails over democracy, ”says the president.
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