TAIPEI – Taiwan needs to be on alert for China’s “over the top” military activities, the premier said on Tuesday, after a record 56 Chinese aircraft flew into Taiwan’s air defense zone, while the president said the island would do what it took to defend itself.
Taiwan has reported 148 Chinese air force planes in the southern and southwestern part of its air defense zone over a four day period beginning on Friday, the same day China marked a key patriotic holiday, National Day.
China claims Taiwan as its own territory, which should be taken by force if necessary. Taiwan says it is are an independent country and will defend their freedoms and democracy.
Taiwan calls China’s repeated nearby military activities “gray zone” warfare, designed to both wear out Taiwan’s forces by making them repeatedly scramble, and also to test Taiwan’s responses.
“Taiwan must be on alert. China is more and more over the top,” Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters in Taipei. “The world has also seen China’s repeated violations of regional peace and pressure on Taiwan.”
Taiwan needs to “strengthen itself” and come together as one, he added.
“Only then will countries that want to annex Taiwan not dare to easily resort to force. Only when we help ourselves can others help us.”
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has made modernizing the armed forces a priority, focusing on the use of new, mobile weapons to make any attack by China as costly as possible, turning Taiwan into a “porcupine.”
In an article for the U.S. magazine Foreign Affairs released on Tuesday, Tsai said Taiwan falling to China would trigger “catastrophic” consequences for peace in Asia.
Taiwan does not seek military confrontation, Tsai said, “but if its democracy and way of life are threatened, Taiwan will do whatever it takes to defend itself.”
Tsai said as countries increasingly recognize the threat China’s Communist Party poses, they should understand the value of working with the island.
“And they should remember that if Taiwan were to fall, the consequences would be catastrophic for regional peace and the democratic alliance system. It would signal that in today’s global contest of values, authoritarianism has the upper hand over democracy,” Tsai wrote.
Taiwan does not seek military confrontation, and wants peaceful, stable, predictable and mutually beneficial coexistence with its neighbors, she wrote.
She reiterated a call for talks with China, as long as it happens in a spirit of equality and without political preconditions, something Beijing has repeatedly rejected.
“Amid almost daily intrusions by the People’s Liberation Army, our position on cross-strait relations remains constant: Taiwan will not bend to pressure, but nor will it turn adventurist, even when it accumulates support from the international community.”
Taiwan is both vibrantly democratic and Western, but influenced by Chinese civilization and shaped by Asian traditions, Tsai wrote.
“Taiwan, by virtue of both its very existence and its continued prosperity, represents at once an affront to the narrative and an impediment to the regional ambitions of the Chinese Communist Party.”
The United States, Taiwan’s main military supplier, has described China’s increasing military activities near the island as destabilizing and reiterated its “rock-solid” commitment to Taiwan.
In a sign of the fraught atmosphere, a security source confirmed reports in Taiwanese media that a Chinese pilot responded to a radio warning to turn back on Sunday with a shouted expletive.
China’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Japan also weighed in on Tuesday, saying it was watching the situation closely and hoped Taiwan and China could resolve their differences through talks.
“Japan believes that it is crucial for the situation surrounding Taiwan to be peaceful and stable,” Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said in Tokyo.
“Additionally, instead of simply monitoring the situation, we hope to weigh the various possible scenarios that may arise to consider what options we have, as well as the preparations we must make.”
Taiwan has lived under the threat of invasion since the defeated Republic of China government fled to the island in 1949 after losing a civil war with the Communists. No peace treaty or armistice has ever been signed.
Taiwanese people are well used to China’s threats and there has been no sign of panic on the island because of the stepped up military activity, nor undermining of investor confidence on the stock market.
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