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Taiwan Condemns China Military Exercises as ‘Enormous Threat’

Taiwan Condemns China Military Exercises as ‘Enormous Threat’

Tuesday, 26 December, 2017 - 10:00
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen. (Reuters)

The Chinese air force carried out 16 rounds of military exercises close to Taiwan in the last year or so, in what Taiwan has deemed as an “enormous threat” to its security.

The Defense Ministry warned on Tuesday that China’s military threat was growing by the day.

It made its comments in an annual defense review that starkly highlighted rising cross-strait tensions.

China views Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified at some point -- by military force, if necessary. The two sides split after a civil war in 1949. Although Taiwan is a self-ruling democracy, it has never formally declared independence.

Beijing has stepped up drills around the island since Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year, as she refuses to acknowledge both sides are part of "one China".

Beijing suspects her of pushing for the island’s formal independence, a red line for China. Tsai says she wants peace with China, but that she will defend Taiwan’s security and way of life.

Of the 16 drills, 15 of them were around Taiwan, flying through the Bashi Channel which separates Taiwan from the Philippines and near Japan’s Miyako island, to the north of Taiwan. The other drill was through the Bashi Channel and out into the Pacific.

China has repeatedly said the drills are routine.

The latest known drill took place last week when several Chinese planes, including jet fighters, passed through the Bashi Channel south of Taiwan to the Pacific and back.

The frequent drills "have created enormous threat to security in the Taiwan Strait," Taiwanese defense minister Feng Shih-kuan said in the 14th national defense report released Tuesday.

The report highlighted the David versus Goliath mismatch between the two rival's forces, saying Taiwan's military needed to adapt to a "multiple deterrence strategy" in the face of the fast-growing Chinese army.

The report estimated Chinese troop numbers at two million compared to around 210,000 in Taiwan's army.

"Taiwan cannot compare with China's defense budget and military developments," Feng said in the report.

Instead Taiwan was "seriously reviewing and drawing a plan to develop asymmetric warfare to deter advances by the Chinese military," he added.

“There have been massive developments in military reforms, combined operations, weapons development and production, the building of overseas military bases and military exercises, and the military threat towards us grows daily.”

In response to increasing China's electronic warfare capabilities, Taiwan established its own cyber army command center this year, which currently has around 1,000 people, according to the ministry.

It has also restructured its air force to centralize its anti-aircraft and missile defense command.

Chinese jets also flew over the Sea of Japan (East Sea) earlier this month, prompting South Korea and Japan to scramble jets.

China's air force said then it was the first time its aircraft had flown through the Tsushima Strait between South Korea and Japan.

Earlier this year, China sent its only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, through the Taiwan Strait during a drill as a show of strength, but it did not enter Taiwanese waters.

Tensions rose earlier this month after a senior Chinese diplomat threatened that China would invade Taiwan if any US warships made port visits there.

Proudly democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by autocratic China, and Taiwan’s government has accused Beijing of not understanding what democracy is all about when it criticizes Taipei.

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