China on Wednesday reaffirmed its threat to use military force to bring self-governing Taiwan under its control, amid threatening Chinese military exercises that have raised tensions between the sides to their highest level in years.
The statement issued by the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office and its news department followed almost a week of missile firings and incursions into Taiwanese waters and airspace by Chinese warships and air force planes.
The actions have disrupted flights and shipping in a region crucial to global supply chains, prompting strong condemnation from the US, Japan and others.
The Chinese statement said Beijing seeks “peaceful unification” with Taiwan but “does not pledge to relinquish the use of military force and retains all necessary options”.
In an additional response, China said it was cutting off dialogue on issues from maritime security to climate change with the US, Taiwan’s chief military and political backer.
China says the threatening moves were prompted by a visit to Taiwan last week by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but Taiwan says such visits are routine and that China used that merely as a pretext to up its threats. Taiwan’s foreign minister warned Tuesday that the Chinese military drills reflect ambitions to control large swaths of the western Pacific, while Taipei conducted its own exercises to underscore its readiness to defend itself.
Beijing’s strategy would include controlling the East and South China seas via the Taiwan Strait and imposing a blockade to prevent the US and its allies from aiding Taiwan in the event of an attack, Joseph Wu told a news conference in Taipei.
Beijing has extended the ongoing exercises without announcing when they will end.
Taiwan split with the mainland amid civil war in 1949 and the island’s 23 million people overwhelmingly oppose political unification with China, while preferring to maintain close economic links and the status quo of de-facto independence.
Through its maneuvers, China has pushed closer to Taiwan’s borders and may be seeking to establish a new normal in which it could eventually control access to the island’s ports and airspace.
The US, Taipei’s main backer, has also shown itself to be willing to face down China’s threats. Washington has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in deference to Beijing, but is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself and to treat all threats against it as matters of grave concern.
That leaves open the question of whether Washington would dispatch forces if China attacked Taiwan. US President Joe Biden has said repeatedly the US is bound to do so — but staff members have quickly walked back those comments.
Beyond the geopolitical risks, an extended crisis in the Taiwan Strait — a significant thoroughfare for global trade — could have major implications for international supply chains at a time when the world is already facing disruptions and uncertainty in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
In particular, Taiwan is a crucial provider of computer chips for the global economy, including China’s high-tech sectors.
In response to the drills, Taiwan has put its forces on alert, but has so far refrained from taking active counter measures.
On Tuesday, its military held live-fire artillery drills in Pingtung County on its southeastern coast. (AP)
Chinese envoy tells Australia to show ‘caution’ over Taiwan
Canberra, Aug 10 (AP): Australia’s recent change of government was a chance to “reset” its troubled relationship with China, but the new administration must “handle the Taiwan question with caution,” a Chinese envoy said on Wednesday.
Chinese Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian said he was “surprised” that Australia had signed a statement with the United States and Japan that condemned China’s firing of missiles into Japanese waters in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last week.
“We hope that the Australian side could take China-Australia relations with serious attitude. Take the One China’ principle seriously, handle the Taiwan question with caution,” Xiao told the National Press Club. Xiao would not say when the live-fire military exercises near Taiwan might end. He said an announcement would be made at a “proper time”.
China wanted a peaceful reunification with Taiwan, which Beijing considers a self-governing province, but Xiao did not rule out use of force.
“We can never rule out the option to use other means. So when necessary, when compelled, we are ready to use all necessary means,” Xiao said. “As to what does it mean by all necessary means?’ You can use your imagination.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin this week said Australia had “wantonly criticised China’s legitimate, justified and lawful measures to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Wang urged Australia to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs”.
“In the past few years, China-Australia relations have experienced serious difficulties for reasons caused by the Australian side,” Wang said.
Beijing has eased a ban on minister-to-minister contacts with Australia since Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s government was elected in May. The two countries’ defence and foreign ministers have since had face-to-face meetings.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang wrote to congratulate Albanese on his election and Albanese had replied.
China would discuss with Australia whether conditions were right for a meeting between Albanese and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November when the leaders are in Indonesia for a Group of 20 summit.
“As ambassador, I’m hoping for the best and I’m going to try to make all my efforts toward that direction,” Xiao said.
Xiao said the new Australian government had made a good start to its relationship with China after a “difficult time for a couple of years”.
“But it’s a good start only. There’s a lot to be done to really reset this relationship,” Xiao said.
Albanese has urged China to demonstrate good faith toward the new government by lifting a series of official and unofficial trade barriers that is costing Australian exporters tens of billions of dollars.
Xiao defended the barriers and pointed to the economic damage Australia had caused Chinese-owned telecommunications giant Huawei by banning it from rolling out the country’s 5G network due to security concerns.
Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles, who is filling in while Albanese is on vacation this week, was undeterred by the hostile Chinese reaction to Australia’s criticisms of the military response to Pelosi’s visit.
“China is going to say what China says. We control our end of this equation. And in describing that end, it’s this: We will engage with the world with respect, with professionalism, with sobriety, with a faith in diplomacy,” Marles said Wednesday.
“And we will continue to do that. While the government has changed, our national interest hasn’t. We will also speak to our national interest and we will speak to it with vigour,” Marles added.