Taiwan Activates Defenses Against China02/01 06:16
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- Taiwan scrambled fighter jets, put its navy on alert
and activated missile systems in response to nearby operations by 34 Chinese
military aircraft and nine warships that are part Beijing's strategy to
unsettle and intimidate the self-governing island democracy.
The large-scale Chinese deployment came as Beijing increases preparations
for a potential blockade or military action against Taiwan that have stirred
increasing concern among military leaders, diplomats and elected officials in
the U.S., Taiwan's key ally.
In a memo last month, U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan instructed officers
to be prepared for a U.S. -China conflict over Taiwan in 2025. As head of the
Air Mobility Command, Minihan has a keen understanding of the Chinese military
and his personal remarks echo calls in the U.S. for heightened preparations.
Taiwan's Defense Ministry said 20 Chinese aircraft on Tuesday crossed the
central line in the Taiwan Strait that has long been an unofficial buffer zone
between the sides, which separated during a civil war in 1949.
China claims the island republic as its own territory, to be taken by force
if necessary, while the vast majority of Taiwanese are opposed to coming under
the control of China's authoritarian Communist Party.
Taiwan's armed forces "monitored the situation ... to respond to these
activities," the Defense Ministry said Wednesday.
That announcement came as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned
that China's growing assertiveness and collaboration with Russia pose a threat
not only to Asia but also to Europe.
On a visit to Japan on Wednesday, Stoltenberg said China is increasingly
investing in nuclear weapons and long-range missiles without providing
transparency or engaging in arms control talks. Stoltenberg earlier criticized
China for "bullying its neighbors and threatening Taiwan" and stressed the need
for Japan and other democracies to work together with the alliance to defend
the international order.
"NATO needs to make sure we have friends," he said, citing escalating
Chinese attempts to coerce neighbors and threaten Taiwan. "It is important to
work more closely with our partners in the Indo Pacific."
China's Foreign Ministry responded by accusing NATO of exceeding its mandate
and having "played up China's threats."
"China is always a force for regional and global peace and stability,"
ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular briefing.
"I would like to stress that the Asia-Pacific is not a battlefield for the
geopolitical contest and does not welcome the Cold War mentality and bloc
confrontation," Mao said.
It wasn't clear what prompted the Chinese action in Taiwan, although it came
just ahead of a visit to Beijing by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who
would become the highest-ranking official to visit China since President Joe
Biden's election in 2020.
Beijing frequently seeks to flag Taiwan as the most serious issue in
U.S.-China relations ahead of top-level discussions, leading then to
discussions of other economic, trade and political issues where there is more
room for meaningful exchanges.
China has sent warships, bombers, fighter jets and support aircraft into
airspace near Taiwan on a near-daily basis, hoping to wear down the island's
limited defense resources and undercut support for pro-independence President
Chinese fighter jets have also confronted military aircraft from the U.S.
and allied nations over international airspace in the South China and East
China seas, in what Beijing has described as dangerous and threatening
A string of visits in recent months by foreign politicians to Taiwan,
including by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and numerous politicians from
the European Union, spurred displays of military might from both sides.
In response to Pelosi's visit in August, China staged war games surrounding
the island and fired missiles over it into the Pacific Ocean.
China has repeatedly threatened retaliation against countries seeking closer
ties with Taiwan, but its attempts at intimidation have sparked a backlash in
popular sentiment in Europe, Japan, the U.S. and other nations.
Taiwan is set to hold presidential elections next year, in contrast to
China's system of total control by President and party General Secretary Xi
Jinping, who has removed term limits to effectively make him leader for life.
China's efforts to reach out to Taiwan's pro-unification Nationalist Party have
Although the Nationalists performed well in local elections last year, the
party's pro-Beijing policies have failed to find resonance among voters on a
Taiwan has responded to China's threats by ordering more defensive weaponry
from the U.S., leveraging its democracy and high-tech economy to strengthen
foreign relations and revitalizing its domestic arms industry.
Compulsory military service for men is being extended from four months to
one year and public opinion surveys show high levels of support for increased
defense spending to counter China's threats.
In an interview last month, Taiwan's envoy to the U.S. said the island has
learned important lessons from Russia's war in Ukraine that would help it deter
any attack by China or defend itself if invaded.
Taiwan's de facto ambassador in Washington, Bi-khim Hsiao, said there is a
new emphasis on preparing military reservists and civilians for the kind of
all-of-society fight that Ukrainians are waging against Russia.
"Everything we're doing now is to prevent the pain and suffering of the
tragedy of Ukraine from being repeated in our scenario in Taiwan," Hsiao told
The Associated Press. "So ultimately, we seek to deter the use of military
force. But in a worst-case scenario, we understand that we have to be better