Signs of a military escalation on Taiwan doorstep
US speaker Nancy Pelosi has landed in Taiwan despite warnings of repercussions from China. President Xi Jinping and Taiwan’s army have stepped-up their military rhetoric in recent days ahead of the controversial visit to the island nation. While Taiwan’s defence ministry has said it would dispatch forces in reaction to “enemy threats”, China announced several days of live-fire exercises in the region, just as the celebrations marking the founding of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen said the country “warmly welcomes” foreign guests but China has warned over possible military and economic action following any visit.
Ms Pelosi is currently on her tour of Asia, and emergency plans are thought to be in place by Taipei should any aggression occur.
The US Navy has deployed four warships east of Taiwan.
The China-Taiwan issue is one of the most pressing in the Indo-Pacific region, and one that Washington and Beijing have clashed heads over on numerous occasions.
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Nancy Pelosi: The US speaker’s flight landing at Taipei late on Tuesday evening
At the heart of the dispute is that the Chinese mainland government — officially governed by the People’s Republic of China — sees Taiwan — officially governed by the Republic of China — as a breakaway province that will one day become part of it.
The Republic of China in fact once governed the mainland, but fled to Taiwan after Mao Zedong’s Communist army overthrew then-leader Chiang Kai-shek’s government.
President Xi has made Taiwan one of his priorities in his plans, having said in 2019 that he would bring it under Beijing’s control by 2050, if necessary by force.
Professor Julian Lindley-French, an internationally recognised strategic analyst and adviser in defence, who has worked with NATO, previously told Express.co.uk that this will happen unless the West steps up to the mark.
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Comparing the situation with Russia and Ukraine, he told Express.co.uk: “China will unify Taiwan with the mainland if it’s not contested, President Xi has made that perfectly clear that his government sees Taiwan as a renegade province of China.
“Legally, the West is almost accepting that by recognising China as being China.
“In the same way with Ukraine, it is not a NATO member, we can’t offer protective defence to Ukraine because it’s only a partner.
“And so China and Russia are looking at this together and thinking, ‘How can we exploit this?’
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Taiwan: The island’s military prepares for a live-fire exercise
Taipei: A man watches a television broadcast on the US’ Air Force
“[This is especially important] given their growing military capability in relation to our own, and that’s the fundamental point here: military power isn’t absolute, it’s relative.
“By taking our eye off the ball in the last 10 years we’ve allowed their relative power to become dangerously advanced in certain areas, and that’s why we’re facing this crisis today.”
President Xi has warned US President Joe Biden against “playing with fire” over Taiwan during a phone call between the two leaders last week.
According to a Chinese statement, he said: “Those who play with fire will be perished by it. It is hoped that the US will be clear-eyed about this.”
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He urged Mr Biden to implement the three joint communiques that make up the basis of the US and China’s relationship, “both in word and in deed,” later adding that he would safeguard China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity that is “the firm will of more than 1.4 billion Chinese people”.
It is not the first instance of China using aggressive language to dissuade the US from involving itself with Taiwan.
Last year, in November, Mr Xi told Mr Biden during a virtual summit that his country was ready to take “decisive measures” if Taiwan made any moves towards fully-fledged independence that Beijing considered going beyond the line.
Since last week, China’s PLA has carried out various military exercises which have included live fire drills in the South China Sea, Yellow Sea and Bohai Seas.
Xi Jinping: China’s president has warned the US against involvement in Taiwan several times
Some regional military analysts argue that increased deployments coinciding with an already tense political period could increase the chances of an accident happening.
China’s army is currently on a propaganda push, publishing videos showing military exercises, depicting live fire drills.
While it did not mention Taiwan explicitly, it said it would “bury incoming enemies”.
This week, Chinese officials issued yet more warnings after the ambassador to the US, Qin Gang, shared the video, saying the military “will not sit idly by when it comes to safeguarding national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.