Taiwan military says it has right to counter attack amid China threats

By Yimou Lee

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan said on Monday its armed forces have the right to self-defense and counter attack amid “harassment and threats,” in an apparent warning to China, which last week sent numerous jets across the mid-line of the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

Tensions have sharply spiked in recent months between Taipei and Beijing, which claims democratically-run Taiwan as its own territory, to be taken by force if needed.

Chinese aircraft crossed the mid-line to enter the island’s air defense identification zone on Friday and Saturday, prompting Taiwan to scramble jets to intercept them, and President Tsai Ing-wen to call China a threat to the region.

In a statement, Taiwan’s defense ministry said it had “clearly defined” procedures for the island’s first response amid “high frequency of harassment and threats from the enemy’s warships and aircraft this year”.

It said Taiwan had the right to “self-defenses and to counter attack” and followed the guideline of “no escalation of conflict and no triggering incidents”.

Taiwan would not provoke, but it was also “not afraid of the enemy”, it added.

MID-LINE “DOES NOT EXIST”

Taiwanese and Chinese combat aircraft normally observe the mid-line of the Taiwan Strait and do not cross it, although there is no official agreement between Taipei and Beijing on doing so, and the rule is observed unofficially.

“Taiwan is an inseparable part of Chinese territory,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters in Beijing. “The so-called mid-line of the Strait does not exist.”

Since 2016 Taiwan has reported only five Chinese incursions across the line, including the two last week.

Late on Monday, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry reported two Chinese anti-submarine aircraft had flown into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone – but not over the mid-line – to the island’s southwest, and were warned away by Taiwanese fighters.

The drills came as Beijing expressed anger at the visit of a senior U.S. official to Taipei.

On Monday, the official China Daily newspaper said the United States was trying to use Taiwan to contain China but nobody should underestimate its determination to assert its sovereignty over the island.

“The U.S. administration should not be blinkered in its desperation to contain the peaceful rise of China and indulge in the U.S. addiction to its hegemony,” it said in an editorial.

China has been angered by stepped-up U.S. support for Taiwan, including two visits in as many months by top officials, one in August by Health Secretary Alex Azar and the other last week by Keith Krach, undersecretary for economic affairs.

The United States, which has no official diplomatic ties with the island but is its strongest international backer, is also planning major new arms sales to Taiwan.

China this month held rare large-scale drills near Taiwan, which Taipei called serious provocation. China said the exercise was a necessity to protect its sovereignty.

(Reporting by Yimou Lee; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard, and Gabriel Crossly in Beijing; Editing by Robert Birsel, Clarence Fernandez and Gareth Jones)

After WHO setback, Taiwan president to press for global participation

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan will strive to actively participate in global bodies despite its failure to attend this week’s key World Health Organization (WHO) meeting, and will not accept being belittled by China, President Tsai Ing-wen will say on Wednesday.

Tsai and her Democratic Progressive Party won January’s presidential and parliamentary elections by a landslide, vowing to stand up to China, which claims Taiwan as its own, to be brought under Beijing’s control by force if needed.

China views Tsai, who will be sworn into office for her second and final term on Wednesday, as a separatist bent on formal independence for Taiwan. She says Taiwan is already an independent state called the Republic of China, its official name.

Tsai will say at her inauguration that Taiwan will seek to “actively participate” in international bodies and deepen its cooperation with like-minded countries, generally a reference to the United States and its allies, according to an outline of her speech provided by Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang.

Taiwan sees the need for participation in WHO as all the more urgent because of the coronavirus pandemic, which was first reported in China.

Taiwan is locked out of most global organisations like the WHO due to the objections of China, which considers the island one of its provinces with no right to the trappings of a sovereign state.

Despite an intense lobbying effort and strong support from the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and others, it was unable to take part in this week’s meeting of the World Health Assembly.

On relations with China, Tsai will reiterate her commitment to peace, dialogue and equality, but that Taiwan will not accept China’s “one country, two systems” model that “belittles” Taiwan.

China uses this system, which is supposed to guarantee a high degree of autonomy, to run the former British colony of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997. It has offered it to Taiwan too, though all major Taiwanese parties have rejected it.

Tsai will also pledge to speed up the development of “asymmetric warfare” capabilities, and boost renewable technologies in a move to position Taiwan as a hub of clean energy in the Asia Pacific.

(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Taiwan leader rejects China’s ‘one country, two systems’ offer

By Yimou Lee

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s president rejected on Thursday a “one country, two systems” formula that Beijing has suggested could be used to unify the island and the mainland, saying such an arrangement had set Hong Kong “on the edge of disorder”.

President Tsai Ing-wen also vowed in a National Day speech to defend Taiwan’s sovereignty, saying her government would safeguard freedom and democracy as Beijing ramps up pressure on the self-ruled island it considers a wayward province.

Tsai, who is seeking re-election in January amid criticism of her policy towards China, referred to the arrangement for the return of the former British colony of Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997 as a failure.

Hong Kong has been hit by months of anti-government protests triggered by widespread resentment of what many city residents see as relentless efforts by Beijing to exert control of their city despite the promises of autonomy.

China has proposed that Taiwan be brought under Chinese rule under a similar arrangement, but Tsai said Beijing’s policies towards the island were a danger to regional stability.

“China is still threatening to impose its ‘one country, two systems’ model for Taiwan. Their diplomatic offensives and military coercion pose a serious challenge to regional stability and peace,” Tsai said.

“When freedom and democracy are challenged, and when the Republic of China’s existence and development are threatened, we must stand up and defend ourselves,” Tsai said, referring to Taiwan by its official name.

“The overwhelming consensus among Taiwan’s 23 million people is our rejection of ‘one country, two systems,’ regardless of party affiliation or political position.”

Taiwan’s National Day, marking the anniversary of the start of a 1911 uprising that led to the end of dynastic rule in China and the founding of a republic, was celebrated in Taipei with singing, dancing and parades.

Cold War hostility between the island and the mainland had eased over the past decade or so as both sides focused more on expanding business ties, but relations have cooled considerably since Tsai took office in 2016.

China suspects Tsai and her independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party of pushing for the island’s formal independence, and this year threatened it with war if there was any such move.

Tsai denies seeking independence and reiterated that she would not unilaterally change the status quo with China.

FLASHPOINT

Despite her assurances, Beijing has stepped up pressure on the island to seek “reunification” and backed up its warnings by flying regular bomber patrols around it.

Beijing also says Taiwan does not have the right to state-to-state relations and is keen to isolate it diplomatically.

Seven countries have severed diplomatic ties with the Taiwan and switched allegiance to Beijing since Tsai coming to power. It now has formal diplomatic ties with just 15 nations.

But Tsai said Taiwan was undaunted.

“The determination of the Taiwanese people to embrace the world has never wavered,” she said, adding that Taiwan must work with “like-minded countries” to ensure peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

Tsai said under her watch Taiwan has boosted its combat capabilities with the purchase of advanced weapons and development of home-made aircraft.

Taiwan unveiled its largest defense spending increase in more than a decade in August, aiming to purchase more advanced weapons from overseas.

The island has long been a flashpoint in the U.S.-China relationship.

In July, the United States approved the sale of an $2.2 billion worth of weapons to Taiwan, angering Beijing.

The United States has no formal ties with Taiwan but is bound by law to help provide it with the means to defend itself.

(Reporting by Yimou Lee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Robeert Birsel)

Taiwan president says does not exclude possibility of China attack

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during the end-of-year news conference in Taipei, Taiwan December 29, 2017.

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said that she does not exclude the possibility of China attacking the self-ruled island, amid heightened tensions between the two sides including an increasing number of Chinese military drills near Taiwan.

Beijing has taken an increasingly hostile stance toward Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province, since the election two years ago of Tsai of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

China suspects Tsai wants to push for formal independence, a red line for Communist Party leaders in Beijing, though she has said she wants to maintain the status quo and is committed to ensuring peace.

In recent months, China has stepped up military drills around Taiwan, alarming Taipei. China says the exercises are routine, but that it will not tolerate any attempt by the island to declare independence.

“No one can exclude this possibility. We will need to see whether their policymakers are reasonable policymakers or not,” Tsai said in an interview on Taiwan television broadcast late on Monday, when asked whether China could attack Taiwan.

“When you consider it (Taiwan-China relationship) from a regional perspective, any reasonable policymaker will have to very carefully deliberate as to whether launching war is an option,” Tsai said.

“When our government faces resistance and pressure from China, we will find our method to resist this. This is very important,” she added.

“In terms of China circulating around Taiwan or carrying out other military activities, our military is carefully following every action and movement in the scope of its monitoring,” Tsai said. “Our military is very confident to face these situations.”

China considers proudly democratic Taiwan to be its sacred territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring it under Chinese control.

Taiwan and China have also traded accusations this month about China’s opening of new civilian aviation routes close to Taiwan-controlled islands in the Taiwan Strait.

Although China has cut off a formal dialogue mechanism with Taiwan, Tsai acknowledged that both sides currently have a method for communications to avoid misunderstanding.

Taiwan has been pressing for the United States, its main source of arms, to provide more advanced equipment, but has also been trying to bolster its own weapons programs, to avoid what Tsai termed “certain political difficulties” that come with buying weapons overseas in the teeth of Chinese opposition.

Tsai said she believed one day Taiwan would be able to produce its own submarines, an item Taipei has long pressed for to face China’s navy.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tsai’s remarks.

(Reporting by Jess Macy Yu; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Taiwan president warns China against military aggression

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during the end-of-year news conference in Taipei, Taiwan December 29, 2017.

By Fabian Hamacher

TAOYUAN, Taiwan (Reuters) – Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Friday China’s military ambitions are becoming more apparent and tension between Taiwan and the mainland must not be resolved through military force.

Tsai has faced increasing hostility from China since she won election early last year, with China stepping up military drills around Taiwan.

China suspects Tsai, from the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, wants to push for the self-ruled island’s formal independence, a red line for Beijing, which considers Taiwan a wayward province and sacred Chinese territory.

“China’s military activities don’t only impact the situation in the Taiwan Strait, but also in all of East Asia … This is not a problem being faced alone by Taiwan,” Tsai told reporters.

“All countries in this region who want to see peace and stability, have a consensus … and China can’t ignore this, that cross strait issues absolutely can’t be resolved through military force but through peaceful means,” Tsai said during a news conference on a stage flanked by two models of fighter jets.

Tsai, however, said her island would not be passive in the face of a more hawkish China.

“Over the past year, the morale of our military is steadily improving, support for our military is also continuously increasing. This is the most gratifying thing since I’ve become president. I hereby solemnly announce that our annual defence budget will grow steadily within a reasonable range.”

Taiwan’s defence ministry warned in a white paper this week that China’s military threat was growing by the day, with the Chinese air force carrying out 16 rounds of exercises close to Taiwan over the past year or so.

Beijing says the drills are routine and that Taiwan had better get used to them.

“We live in a fast changing geopolitical environment; China’s ambition in military expansion in the region is becoming more apparent, as evident by the People’s Liberation Army’s frequent aerial and naval activities,” Tsai said.

China has warned Taiwan against “using weapons to refuse reunification” and China’s state media has prominently featured pictures of Chinese jets flying close to the island.

Tsai has stressed she wants peace across the Taiwan Strait, but has pledged to defend Taiwan’s security and way of life.

Taiwan is well equipped with mostly U.S.-made weapons, but has been pressing Washington to sell more advanced equipment.

Democratic Taiwan has shown no interest in being run by Beijing. Taiwan’s government has accused Beijing of not understanding what democracy is about when it criticises Taipei.

(Fixes dateline to Taoyuan not Taipei)

(Additional reporting by Clare Jim in Hong Kong; Writing by James Pomfret; Editing by Ben Blanchard, Robert Birsel)