The United States has reaffirmed its commitment to defend the democratic island of Taiwan amid ongoing incursions from China’s military in recent weeks.
“Our commitment to Taiwan is rock solid,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price told a news briefing on Wednesday.
“We think and we know that it contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability in and across the Taiwan Strait and within the region as well,” he said.
“We have, of course, taken note with great concern the pattern of ongoing efforts [by China] and attempts to intimidate in the region including in the context of Taiwan,” Price said, citing the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act that requires the U.S. to “resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security or the social or economic system of the people on Taiwan.”
A Chinese aircraft carrier group conducted drills in waters off Taiwan and as 15 Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Wednesday, the fifth day of incursions into the zone by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
Taiwan’s military responded by scrambling planes to monitor the Chinese aircraft, issuing radio warnings and mobilizing air defense systems until the aircraft left the area, its ministry of defense said.
Taiwan foreign minister Joseph Wu warned on Wednesday that the country would fight “to the very last day,” if the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which has never controlled Taiwan, were to invade.
“From my limited understanding of American decision makers watching developments in this region, they clearly see the danger of the possibility of China launching an attack against Taiwan,” he told reporters.
“We are willing to defend ourselves without any questions and we will fight the war if we need to fight the war. And if we need to defend ourselves to the very last day we will defend ourselves to the very last day,” Wu said.
Meanwhile, the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, conducted “a routine Taiwan Strait transit April 7 (local time) through international waters in accordance with international law,” the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the move wasn’t in response to “specific events or actions,” but rather to demonstrate its commitment to the freedom of all nations to “sail, operate and fly in accordance with international law.”
China hit out at the United States for “endangering the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait.”
CCP leader Xi Jinping has told the country’s military and armed police force to get ‘combat ready’ to defend national sovereignty and security, amid fears that Beijing may be planning an invasion of democratic Taiwan in the next few years.
Gaining control over Taiwan has been highlighted as a core goal of Xi’s “national rejuvenation program” by 2035, with some analysts saying Beijing will likely make its first move in the next few years.
The top U.S. military commander in the region has warned that China could be preparing to bring forward plans to invade Taiwan as early as 2027.
Admiral Philip Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Beijing could launch an invasion within the next six years.
The PLA has flown multiple aircraft into Taiwan’s ADIZ since the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20.
The ADIZ was created by the United States Armed Forces after World War II, and covers most of the Taiwan Strait, part of the East China Sea, and adjacent airspace.
Not mentioned in or regulated by any international agreement, the zones extend far beyond territorial airspace and are designed to give a country more time to respond to potentially hostile aircraft.
Taiwan’s defense ministry said recent incursions have included bombers and fast-moving fighter jets usually used for offensive purposes.
In 2018, the Pentagon warned that the PLA is gradually preparing for a possible invasion of Taiwan, as the CCP “continued to develop and deploy increasingly advanced military capabilities intended to coerce Taiwan, signal Chinese resolve, and gradually improve capabilities for an invasion.”
Taiwan has never been ruled by Beijing nor formed part of the People’s Republic of China, but has been locked out of international diplomacy and agencies at the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s insistence.
Washington has said it will no longer seek to “appease” China on Taiwan, as the State Department announced an end to a ban on high-level official and diplomatic contact with Taiwanese officials on Jan. 9, at the tail end of the Trump administration.
Under CCP general secretary Xi Jinping, China has stepped up its rhetoric claiming the island as part of its territory, and has refused to rule out a military invasion.
But Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has repeatedly said that the country’s 23 million people have no wish to give up their sovereignty or their democratic way of life.
Reported by Man Hoi Yan for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Hwang Chun-mei for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.