Taiwan says China tensions highest in 40 years

A Taiwan flag is carried across the sky during a national day rehearsal in Taipei, Taiwan, October 5, 2021.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS


Days after China’s air force sent a record 56 aircraft towards Taiwan, Taiwanese Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng described relations across the straits as the most strained in 40 years.

“It is the toughest situation I have seen in more than 40 years of my military life,” the Defence Minister, also a former General, was quoted as telling the legislature, amid stepped up aerial intrusions from China’s air force.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force sent a record 38 aircraft into the Air Defence Identification Zone on Friday, October 1, China’s National Day. Another 39 aircraft followed on Saturday, with a record 56 aircraft in two waves on Monday.

The Taiwanese Defence Minister, who was speaking to the legislature as it revised a defence spending budget, said China had the ability to start a war but would weigh various outcomes, the costs and consequences, before launching one. He said Taiwan had to be able to defend itself rather than rely on others, referring to U.S. commitments to defend the island.

Separately on Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden said he had spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping on the Taiwan issue and both “agreed to abide by the agreement”, ostensibly referring to past U.S.-China understandings on Taiwan. Mr. Biden also appeared to be referring to their phone call last month.

The U.S. State Department said it was “very concerned" over the air intrusions, which it described as China’s “provocative military activity near Taiwan, which is destabilising, risks miscalculations, and undermines regional peace and stability.”

That statement drew a sharp response from China’s Foreign Ministry. "Taiwan belongs to China and the U.S. is in no position to make irresponsible remarks,” spokesperson Hua Chunying said, saying the remarks "send an extremely wrong and irresponsible signal.”

Ms. Hua also hit out at U.S. arms sales "including the launch of a $750 million arms sale plan to Taiwan, the landing of US military aircraft in Taiwan and frequent sailing of US warships across the Taiwan Strait."

The Taiwan tensions are expected to figure in talks this week between U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and China’s top diplomat and Politburo member Yang Jiechi, as they meet in Switzerland.

The March meeting in Alaska between the two, which was the first high-level engagement with China after the Biden administration took office, was marked by an unusual rancorous public exchange of words played out in front of the cameras.

In July, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who is currently on a visit to India, was presented with two lists of demands by Chinese officials in talks in Tianjin, as relations between both countries continue to remain strained amid differences on a range of issues from trade and technology to Hong Kong and Xinjiang, besides the Taiwan issue.

Speaking to the media in New Delhi, Ms. Sherman said the U.S. will challenge China where it must, compete where there is a level playing field and cooperate where it can. "We will challenge China where we must, we want to make sure there's a free, open, interconnected Indo-Pacific, as does India,” she said. “And that means that China doesn't get to decide who gets to use those waterways and who doesn't. They have sent sorties of airplanes across Taiwan's path over the last couple of days…. We find that to be a very dangerous action.”

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 1:58:00 PM |

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