TAIPEI – Military tensions with China are worst in more than 40 years, Taiwan’s defense minister said Wednesday, calling for lawmakers to launch a new arms spending package days after record numbers of Chinese planes entered the island’s air defense zone.
Tensions between Taipei and Beijing, which claims the Democratic Island as its own territory, have reached new highs and Chinese military planes have repeatedly flown through Taiwan’s air defense identification zone despite no shots being fired and the planes staying away from mainland Taiwan.
Over a four-day period that began last Friday, Taiwan reported that nearly 150 Chinese Air Force planes entered its air defense zone, part of a pattern of what Taipei calls Beijing’s ongoing harassment of the island. Only one attack was reported on Tuesday.
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When asked by a legislature about the current military tensions with China in parliament, Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said the situation was “the most serious” in more than 40 years since joining the military, adding that there was a risk of “misfire” . “Across the sensitive strait.
“For me in the military, the urgency is right ahead of me,” he told a parliamentary committee that is planning an additional military spending plan worth T $ 240 billion ($ 8.6 billion) over the next five years on homemade weapons, including missiles and warships.
Though Taiwan has repeatedly complained about China’s planes, the situation is far less dramatic than the pre-election crisis in 1996, when the two were last on the verge of war.
Then China conducted missile tests in waters near Taiwan to prevent people from voting for Lee Teng-hui, whom China suspects of holding views for independence. Lee won convincingly.
China says Taiwan should be taken by force if necessary. Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy, blaming China for the tensions.
Chiu said China is already able to invade Taiwan and is able to launch a “major” invasion by 2025.
“By 2025, China will bring costs and wear and tear to the lowest possible levels. It has the capacity now, but it won’t easily start a war as it has many other things to consider.”
The United States, Taiwan’s main military supplier, has confirmed its “rock-solid” commitment to Taiwan and has also criticized China. Beijing blames Washington’s policies of assisting Taiwan with arms sales and sending warships across the Strait to increase tensions.
President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he had spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping about Taiwan and that they have agreed to abide by the Taiwan Agreement.
Biden appeared to be referring to Washington’s longstanding “one-China” policy, which officially recognizes Beijing instead of Taipei, and the Taiwan Relations Act, which makes it clear that the US decision to establish diplomatic relations with Beijing rather than Taiwan to the expectation that Taiwan’s future will be determined by peaceful means.