U.S. Army and Air Force soldiers during joint exercises near Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow, Russia. Getty Images
With the threats posed by the military build-up in the Middle East and East Asia, Asia has become a powder keg threatening to derail future peaceful strategic cooperation in the region.
On the surface, it’s difficult to see why China and Russia — two countries with nuclear armed military-interior forces — would see any benefit to building up military capabilities in the Taiwan Strait, a region which has remained for almost 70 years completely peaceful except for a few “occasions.” Yet the standoff between China and Taiwan looks to be entering a dangerous phase, as Beijing looks increasingly likely to enforce its claim on the island by military means, and Taiwan is moving closer to acquiring the capabilities to defend itself from a military attack.
China claims sovereignty over Taiwan, a self-governing island that split from mainland China in 1949 when the communists took power. Beijing is not bound by the rule of the 1962 Joint Declaration (the basis for peaceful resolution of the Taiwan issue), in which it said it would respect Taiwanese political system if the island became a sovereign nation. Indeed, Chinese President Xi Jinping has strengthened Taiwan’s defense capabilities ever since he became president in 2012.
Here are some of the major ways that China is trying to make sure that Taiwan doesn’t get rid of the treaty status quo.
China backs Taiwan in People’s Liberation Army; Taiwan to make up its own mind
In December, China agreed to buy 66 fighter jets, the most significant deal ever between the two countries. China will buy at least 59 aircraft from the U.S. manufacturer Lockheed Martin, and purchase another nine F-35 fighter jets from Boeing. They will be the first Chinese made F-35 fighters. The aircraft will be used by the People’s Liberation Army to help the air force fend off the threat posed by North Korea.
Related Image Expand / Contract (The White House)
China won’t stop wanting a separate country from the U.S.
Taiwan has faced a vast propaganda campaign by China for many years. They try to influence the Taiwanese people, telling them that any attempt to create a separate state from the Mainland is an effort to split the country. Washington should be mindful of the current situation and consider that China will continue to keep pressuring Taiwan with time. From the People’s Liberation Army.
Related Image Expand / Contract (Chinese Lunar explorer taking video of Chang’e-4 lander and rover landing on the moon. Courtesy China Lunar Exploration Program)
Taiwan has arms suppliers who are violating Taiwan sovereignty
In 2018, China sent a “warning letter” to dozens of countries and institutions that had arms deals with Taiwan as well as financial ties to the Taiwanese government in recent years. An official from the Ministry of State Security and Taiwan Affairs Office said, “unilateral actions by Taiwan have caused severe losses in export value for the Chinese people. A closer cooperation is the only way for Taiwan to safeguard its sovereignty.”
Taiwan appears to be becoming the next target of China’s military buildup. (Credit: Nikkei Asia Review)
Taiwan has faced persistent American criticism for failing to improve its military capabilities.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis last December called for “full cooperation with Taiwan as we work together to preserve peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.” The U.S. has long had formal ties with Taiwan, and even released a $5 billion weapons deal with Taiwan in 2015. Under normal circumstances the agreement would allow the U.S. to supply Taiwanese military units with the equipment it needs. But because China has repeatedly complained about the imbalance in its defense capabilities, the U.S. has said that it won’t supply Taiwanese military units with these equipment.
In early January, President Donald Trump publicly appealed to China to stop what he called the “destabilizing and provocative actions” of Taiwanese forces and to abide by the joint spirit of the “one China” policy. Trump emphasized the importance of a peaceful and stable region. “We will continue to insist on adherence to the ‘one China’ policy,” he said.
The U.S. isn’t the only country to criticize China, though. In November, Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera accused China of “increasing provocations” in the Taiwan Strait. He added that it was Japan’s duty to strengthen security in the region to defend “democratic stability.”
A new report by the RAND Corporation cites “significant shortcomings” in the Taiwan armament program, warning that “Taiwan is decades behind other Asian nations in [its] missile production capability.”