The incursions of Chinese aircraft into the Taiwanese Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) during the last few days have caused relations between Taipei and Beijing to go through “their worst moment” in the last four decades, according to the island’s authorities today.
In total, almost 150 aircraft overflew Taiwan’s ADIZ in the first days of October, which Beijing does not recognize and which is not equivalent to its airspace, but covers a larger area that includes areas of mainland China.
But these maneuvers, described by the Chinese press as “a strong warning to both secessionists and their foreign supporters”, have set off alarm bells in Taiwan.
According to Chiu Kuo-cheng, head of the Defense Ministry, relations between Taipei and Beijing are going through “their worst moment in 40 years”, while Taiwanese Prime Minister Su Tseng-chang warned yesterday that the island must “be alert” given that “China is increasingly on top of them.”
“The world has also seen China’s repeated violations of regional peace and pressure on Taiwan,” Su said, quoted by the local Taipei Times newspaper.
Chiu picked up the gauntlet and today called on the Taiwanese Legislative House to approve a special budget, worth $8.6 billion, to buy weaponry produced on the island.
A good portion, he said, will be allocated to anti-ship systems and to develop Hsiung Feng III supersonic missiles to counter China’s Type 075 amphibious assault ships.
According to the Taiwanese defense minister, Beijing already has the “capability to attack the island, but at a high cost,” which would be lower by 2025, when China could “stage a full-scale invasion.”
War maneuvers in the Pacific
The Chinese war maneuvers come days before the island celebrates its national day, next October 10, and shortly after the British frigate HMS Richmond sailed last week through the Taiwan Strait, something that infuriated Beijing.
To this must be added exercises by the American aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan and USS Carl Vinson held last weekend off Japan’s southwestern coast of Okinawa, located some 700 kilometers from Taiwan.
Not surprisingly, Beijing complains that the United States has sold arms to Taiwan and strengthens official and military ties with the island.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying listed among its criticisms “a plan to sell weapons to Taiwan worth 750 million dollars, the landing of military aircraft in Taiwan and the navigation of warships through the Strait”.
The United States, for its part, has urged China to stop “provoking” and “destabilizing” with its maneuvers, while Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen stressed yesterday in Foreign Affairs that “Taiwan will do whatever it takes to defend itself’ against an increasingly assertive Beijing.”
The island considers itself a sovereign territory with its own government and political system under the name of the Republic of China: “failure to defend Taiwan would not only be catastrophic for the Taiwanese; it would overturn a security architecture that has allowed for peace and extraordinary economic development in the region for seven decades,” she said.
Representatives of China and the United States to meet
Taiwan is also one of the major sources of conflict between China and the United States, mainly because Washington is the island’s main arms supplier and would be its biggest military ally in the event of a possible war with China.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden said he had spoken with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, about Taiwan and that both had agreed to abide by the current status quo.
“I’ve spoken with Xi about Taiwan. We agree … we’ll abide by the Taiwan agreement. We made it clear that I don’t think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement,” he said.
He was referring to the agreements governing U.S.-China relations, under which Washington has recognized Beijing as the sole Chinese government since 1979.
However, the United States also committed itself to the defense of the island and to the supply of military equipment, a commitment that has generated numerous frictions with Beijing.
It now remains to be seen whether the Taiwanese issue will be addressed at the meeting to be held today in the Swiss city of Zurich between Biden’s advisor, Jake Sullivan, and the head of Chinese diplomacy, Yang Jiechi, a meeting aimed at easing tensions.
Sullivan and Yang will meet to follow up on the September 9 telephone conversation between Biden and Xi, in which both pledged to “responsibly manage” the constant friction between the two powers.