Tensions are soaring in the strait that separates Taiwan from mainland China — just 130 km at its narrowest point — as Beijing continues to heap military, diplomatic and gray-zone pressure on Taipei.

In recent months, China has ramped up its military activities near the island, sending warplanes on near daily sorties into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ). Beijing has deployed hulking commercial sand dredgers near islands and waters over which Taiwan claims jurisdiction, a move some have called tantamount to psychological warfare. And China’s vice foreign minister has said that when it comes to reunification with the mainland, “no option is excluded,” a veiled reference to invasion.

Taiwan has responded to China’s dialed-up campaign by turning to its closest partners, the United States and Japan, in a bid to bolster its defenses and deter Beijing from a conflict that experts say would have catastrophic consequences for not only the region but the world.