China-Taiwan tensions at a point 'not seen in years' says expert
Diplomatic relations in the South China Sea have reached boiling point over recent months after Beijing built several military bunkers on some of the atolls as well as increasing their military presence in the region.
The South China Sea is a highly contested area with China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines all laying claim to parts of the archipelago.
And now, Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, has urged other nations to work together to counter against Beijing.
Mr Wu said: “If one of the most critical junctures of the first island chain is not in the hands of the like-minded countries, we can imagine what this is going to create in the global strategic picture.
“We definitely need to think about how we prevent it from happening.
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“The like-minded countries need to come together, and we will be strong together.”
He warned allies including the US, Europe, Japan and Australia that if Taiwan was to “fall prey to China” it would increase Beijing’s reach into the Pacific region.
He continued: “We want the international community to understand that excluding 23.5 million people here in Taiwan is definitely not fair to the Taiwanese people, and also, excluding Taiwanese people from participating in the World Health Organisation is not fair to the rest of the International community.
“Whoever is affected by Chinese expansionism will turn around and [ask] is it good for me to do business with this country?
“I’m sure you see that Japan, the United States, India and now Australia, [as well as] many other countries including in the European Union are now saying ‘hey, maybe this is the time for us to rethink the strategy for dealing with China’.”
While never having ruled Taiwan, the Chinese Communist Party considers the country to be a breakaway province and believes it must be brought back to the motherland.
Back in October, China’s President Xi Jinping told troops to prepare for war following Washington’s support of Taiwan.
With a potential war on the horizon, Taiwan is outgunned by China and has called for the US to provide the country with the necessary defensive materials.
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Mr Wu told The Guardian: “Considering that China may want to launch an attack a couple… or several years down the road in a more massive way, we need to procure more items from the United States.
“We cannot assume that China will attack Taiwan or will not attack Taiwan, in what period of time.
“But if we look at the Chinese preparation in the last couple of years, they have certainly intensified their military deployment against Taiwan and also intensified their exercises around Taiwan.”
Mr Wu was referring to the increased number of Chinese incursions into Taiwan’s air identification zone (AIDZ).
Despite having no claim on the archipelago, Washington has also increased its military presence in the contested region.
But last month, several allies of the US who are part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have grown wary over Washington’s move to police illegal fishing.
Gilang Kembara, researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Indonesia, warned Jakarta would not welcome a militaristic approach by the US.
He said: “I think it’s a good thing if the US offers Indonesia cooperation with their coastguard, since the IUU fishing is a criminal activity, so we need law enforcement to fight it.
“But if what they offer is cooperation with the US Navy, and this becomes a [military] issue… that approach is overblown because I don’t think IUU fishing is an existential threat to a nation.”
Jay L Batongbacal, director at the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Affairs and law of the Sea, said the Philippines would also not welcome joint enforcement.
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