Diplomacy

Taiwan tension with China threatens to escalate into war

United States allies warn of looming dangers to the island democracy amid growing concerns in South China Sea

Major global democracies have warned of the threat posed by the PLA Navy in the South China Sea amid fears of a Taiwan invasion. 

The European Union has joined the United States in condemning China’s ruling Communist Party for “endangering peace and stability in the region.”

As tensions rise in one of the world’s major maritime superhighways, Australia’s Defense Minister Peter Dutton stressed that a Sino-Taiwan conflict “could not be discounted.”

“People need to be realistic about the activity. There is [the] militarisation of bases across the region. Obviously, there is a significant amount of activity and there is animosity between Taiwan and China. I don’t think it [conflict] should be discounted,” he said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation or ABC.

The facts:

  • China claims more than 90% of the South China Sea.
  • The PLA Air Force and Navy have stepped up “exercises” around Taiwan in the past six months.
  • Beijing has also increased operations in the Taiwan Strait and the broader South China Sea.
  • The CCP has threatened to reunite the island with the “motherland” by force if necessary.
  • Taiwan has become a bastion of democracy.
  • It also has a high-tech economy, including a cutting-edge semiconductor or chip industry.

Friends and foe: “We want to make sure we continue to be a good neighbor in the region, that we work with our partners and with our allies. Nobody wants to see [a] conflict between China and Taiwan or anywhere else,” Defense Minister Dutton said.

Policy shift: Last week, the EU unveiled plans to boost its influence in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China’s power play. It came after the Philippines accused China of “threatening” behavior after “maritime militia” were again spotted in its territorial waters.

Wave of concern: “Tensions in the South China Sea, including the recent presence of large Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef, endanger peace and stability in the region … [We oppose] actions that could undermine the international rules-based order,” an EU spokesperson said in a statement at the weekend as reported by the Reuters news agency.

Rules, what rules? The Chinese Mission to the EU told Brussels not to interfere in its sovereignty, rights and interests in the South China Sea. Beijing claims nearly all of the 1.3 million-square-mile waterway. “[That is based on the] long course of history and consistent with international law,” China’s EU Mission said in a statement.

Delve deeper: In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled against Beijing in a dispute with the Philippines involving vast tracks of the South China Sea. Xi’s administration has continued to reject the decision, insisting it is “null and void.”

Circling the battlewagons: The PLA Navy is now the largest in the world. On Friday, Xi commissioned three more state-of-the-art warships as reported by the state-controlled Global Times. They included a Type 055 destroyer and the country’s first Type 075 amphibious assault ship. The other vessel was a Type 09IV nuclear-powered strategic ballistic missile submarine.

Red menace: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned the CCP against invading Taiwan. “It would be a serious mistake for anyone to try to change that status quo by force,” he said in an interview with the NBC network earlier this month.

China Factor comment: The unthinkable is now being routinely discussed. China’s over-confident and increasingly nationalistic government might just decide the time is right to invade Taiwan. That scenario would have been dismissed as ridiculous a decade ago but not anymore. Last month, Admiral Philip Davidson, the head of the US Indo-Pacific Command, told Congress that Xi appeared to be accelerating his plan to take Taiwan.

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