The United States has hit out at “provocative” military action by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) near the democratic island of Taiwan, which it says risks destabilizing the situation and undermines regional peace and stability.
“The United States is very concerned by the People’s Republic of China’s provocative military activity near Taiwan, which is destabilizing, risks miscalculations, and undermines regional peace and stability,” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on Sunday.
“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan,” he said.
Price, whose statement came after the PLA dispatched 93 aircraft to enter Taiwan’s Air Defense Exclusion Zone (ADIZ) from Friday to Sunday, vowed that the U.S. would abide by its commitment to help Taiwan maintain its ability to defend itself.
“The U.S. commitment to Taiwan is rock solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region,” he said, adding that the Biden administration would continue to “deepen our ties” with Taiwan, which has never been ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), nor formed part of the People’s Republic of China.
The incursions began on China’s Oct. 1 National Day, and are the biggest military incursion seen since the Taiwan government started keeping records in September 2020.
Taiwan foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou welcomed the U.S. response.
“The ministry of foreign affairs expresses its heartfelt thanks to the Biden administration for continuing to condemn China’s provocative actions with its public statements and reiteration of its commitment to Taiwan at the weekend,” Ou told a news briefing in Taipei on Monday.
“Our government is committed to improving our defensive capabilities in the face of Chinese aggression,” she said. “We will also continue to strengthen cooperation with the United States and other like-minded countries.”
Attempt to intimidate
Former Taiwanese general Yu Pei-chen said the number of sorties being flown by the PLA was an attempt to intimidate Taiwan, possibly because U.S. and U.K. naval vessels are in the area.
“They are sending J-16s and Su Kai-30 fighters,” Yu told RFA. “Our information is that they are flying, unarmed, with no payload.”
He said the CCP leadership is likely looking to distract China’s 1.4 billion population from a rolling wave of power outages in the northeast and eastern seaboard.
“They want to shift the focus, and show the West that their determination to defend their territorial claims is unchanged, even if their people have no electricity,” Yu said.
But former defense minister Yang Nien-tsu said the CCP seems intent on threatening Taiwan regardless of what is happening at home, and looks set to continue to do so in future.
‘An insidious intention’
British Royal Navy frigate HMS Richmond has arrived in Vietnam on a four-day friendly visit after transiting through the Taiwan Strait, angering China.
China condemned the frigate’s passage through the Taiwan Strait saying the United Kingdom is “carrying out a meaningless display of presence with an insidious intention.”
In an unusual move, HMS Richmond broadcast its location while sailing through the sensitive strait, prompting China to dispatch military units to follow and monitor the passage. Publicizing the passage was widely seen as a deliberate act by the U.K. to confirm that the Taiwan Strait is international waters and part of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) president Tsai Ing-wen has been a vocal supporter of Hong Kong protesters’ aspirations for full democracy, and against the use of police violence and political prosecutions to target protesters, and argued during a presidential election debate that China is the biggest threat to Taiwan’s way of life.
Taiwan was ruled as a Japanese colony in the 50 years prior to the end of World War II, but was occupied by the 1911 Republic of China under the Kuomintang (KMT) as part of Tokyo’s post-war reparation deal with the allies.
Beijing insists it will reclaim the island, by force if necessary.
Public opinion polls have shown that the violent suppression of Hong Kong’s anti-government protest movement last year fueled fears for Taiwan’s national security and democracy, and that only around 4.5 percent of Taiwan’s 23 million people welcome the idea of Chinese rule.
The island began a transition to democracy following the death of President Chiang Ching-kuo in January 1988, starting with direct elections to the legislature in the early 1990s and culminating in the first direct election of a president, Lee Teng-hui, in 1996.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.