FLIGHTS over Taiwan by the Chinese military are part of escalating preparations to take over the island, its foreign minister has said.
The warning come amid calls in the US for new laws that would allow American troops to defend Taiwan in the event that China invades.
Speaking today, Taiwanese foreign minister Joseph Wu told reporters that China is now sending planes near the island on an almost daily basis.
“Looking on the long-term trend, China appears to be gradually stepping up its military preparedness, especially in the air or on the waters near Taiwan,” he said.
“What China is doing now is continuing to ramp up preparedness to solve the Taiwan issue.
“The threat is on the rise.”
China claims that Taiwan, a self-ruled island democracy, should be part of its own territory and has long threatened to use force to bring it under its control.
Taiwan first broke away from mainland China in 1949, when former president Chiang Kai-shek and his supporters fled to the island following the Chinese Communist Party victory in the country’s civil war.
Chiang’s government continued to claim to be the legitimate representative of China, but since 1950 its jurisdiction has been limited to Taiwan and a number of smaller islands in the region.
Beijing cut ties with the islands government after the election President Tsai Ing-wen, a supporter of Taiwanese independence, in 2016, and has continued to seek to isolate it diplomatically while raising the military threat.
Many of the recent exercises conducted by the Chinese military in the region are reported to have been simulations of an invasion of Taiwan.
Wu’s warning comes amid rising tensions between the US and China over military activity in the South China Sea as well as a new crackdown in Hong Kong and the Beijing government’s handling of the coronavirus.
He said China appeared to have grown in confidence since it successfully passing laws allowing it to target opposition voices in Hong Kong.
“If international society does not give China a sufficiently clear signal, I believe China will take it that international society will not impede it in doing other things,” he said.
“This is what we are extremely worried about.”
“Taiwan is on the front line defending freedom and democracy. But we’re fighting for something bigger.
“It’s our values that are at stake.”
The US currently does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but maintains a close relationship, with US law mandating that Washington help Taiwan maintain a credible defence and treat threats against it as a matter of concern.
But Republican congressman Ted Yoho this week called for the provisions to go further, and announced plans to introduce a so-called Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act.
Speaking to Fox Business, Yoho said: “This is something that’s going to lay very clear what our intent is.
“In fact, it will go to the point where it authorises [use of military force]if China invades Taiwan.”
The bill is unlikely to succeed without the backing of Democratic or Republican leaders, but serves as a signal of the political mood on the issue among lawmakers in Washington.
Speaking yesterday, US defence secretary Mark Esper warned that China’s recent activity in the area around Taiwan “significantly increase the risk of miscalculation”.