Taiwan report on state of defence against China says island faces ‘grave’ existential threat

·3-min read
Photo released by the Taiwan’s defence ministry shows a  Chinese PLA J-16 fighter jet flies in an undisclosed location (HOGP - Handout Government Produced)
Photo released by the Taiwan’s defence ministry shows a Chinese PLA J-16 fighter jet flies in an undisclosed location (HOGP - Handout Government Produced)

Taiwan faces a "grave" military threat from China, whose armed forces are capable of blockading the island's harbours and airports, the Taiwanese defence ministry said on Tuesday.

In a biennial military report, the defence ministry outlined how Beijing has allegedly launched "grey zone" warfare — a tactic aimed at subduing a nation through exhaustion, stopping short of an actual war.

Taiwan cited 554 "intrusions" by Chinese warplanes into its southwestern theatre of air defence identification zone between September 2020 and the end of August this year, as well as speedboats ramming its coast guard vessels.

Earlier in October Taiwan's defence minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said tensions with China are at their worst in 40 years, warning of the risk of an accidental strike between the two nations.

Beijing maintains that Taiwan is a part of its national territory, even though the island has been self-ruled since its split from the mainland after a civil war in 1949.

China has not ruled out the use of force to bring the sovereign state under its control and has been beefing its military activities around the island, including flying a record number of warplanes on Taiwan's airspace.

"At present, the PLA (People's Liberation Army) is capable of performing local joint blockade against our critical harbours, airports, and outbound flight routes, to cut off our air and sea lines of communication and impact the flow of our military supplies and logistic resources," the ministry said.

The ministry added that the Chinese army is aiming to complete the modernisation of its forces by 2035 to "obtain superiority in possible operations against Taiwan and viable capabilities to deny foreign forces, posing a grave challenge to our national security."

The island nation's president Tsai Ing-wen has pushed for bolstering Taiwan's defences on a priority. She has pledged to produce more domestically developed weapons, including submarines, and buy more equipment from their ally and China’s nemesis — the United States.

The president had previously during Taiwan's National day celebrations vowed to defend the island from Beijing's aggression. “We will do our utmost to prevent the status quo from being unilaterally altered,” she said.

A top Taiwan security official told lawmakers earlier this month that China had internally debated attacking Taiwan's Pratas Islands but is unlikely to do so before 2024 when president Tsai's term ends.

Last month tensions between Taipei and Beijing reached a tipping point when Taiwan reported incursions by 148 Chinese air force planes in the southern and southwestern theatre of the zone over a four-day period. Taipei has called the recent escalation of Beijing's aggression a carefully planned strategy of harassment.

"Its intimidating behaviour does not only consume our combat power and shake our faith and morale but also attempts to alter or challenge the status quo in the Taiwan Strait to ultimately achieve its goal of 'seizing Taiwan without a fight'," the ministry said in its report on Tuesday.

To counter China's attempt, the ministry said it would deepen its efforts on "asymmetric warfare" to make attacks painful and difficult for China.

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