As the diplomatic conflict between China and Taiwan escalates, a spokesman for the Taiwanese president said Sunday that the country suspects China is increasing its military activity near the self-ruled island as a prelude to war.
“Taiwan needs a clear signal from international society on the need to maintain peace and stability,” James Lo, spokesman for Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said during a televised news conference. “Beijing has directed Beijing’s armed forces to boost its war efforts near our border.”
Taiwan’s White House office also said in a tweet that the recent increase in military maneuvers, calls by Chinese President Xi Jinping to “assist the Taiwanese government to boost defense capabilities,” and a Japanese cruise missile test near Taiwan all suggested that there may be a plan to harm the island by a state actor.
The official attacks are particularly striking as Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the political leader of the island’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, faces international pressure. The Trump administration’s decision to allow the island to purchase nine F-16 fighter jets was a big shot in the arm, but China has threatened to block exports of avionics and other parts.
Tsai has appealed for international support, while Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador to the United States, reportedly said that as Taiwanese fighter jets flew over China, they should think of Chinese missiles when making any emergency landing, according to the China-based Global Times. The report did not provide specifics.
While it’s common for China to train and test various weapons, Taiwan’s timing of its broadside — coming less than a week after Xi Jinping’s international tour — could suggest that this effort is an effort to escalate the conflict. It is also notable that Tsai spoke by phone with President Donald Trump, despite the potential tension between the U.S. and China over those fighter jets.
According to Taiwan, the fighter jets are armed with precision-guided missiles.
Lo said that China’s “stern military posturing” was in response to Tsai’s soft approach toward Beijing and said that “tensions” had to be reduced.
In his speech, Lo warned that “timing is everything” when it comes to the deteriorating relationship between the two countries. “Compromise is not the only option,” he said.