On Thursday, Britain’s defense minister urged China to find a diplomatic solution to the Taiwan dispute, saying that Chinese incursions into Taiwan’s air defense zone were dangerous and could lead to violence.
After the Chinese air force increased its overflights on Oct. 1, Western capitals and Taipei are on high alert.
“As we’ve seen, they’re posing militarily. That, we believe, is a bad idea “Ben Wallace, the British Defense Secretary, told reporters.
“You risk destabilizing the region, you risk triggering future violence in other disputed places,” he said during a trip to Brussels for a NATO gathering that isn’t anticipated to address China or Taiwan.
Military experts say the overflights by Chinese bombers, and Taiwan’s scrambling of its jets in response, heighten the risk of an accident or miscalculation that could touch off a crisis.
Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed on Oct. 9 to achieve “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan and did not directly mention the use of force.
But democratically ruled Taiwan has come under increased military and political pressure from Beijing to accept its sovereignty over the island, which it regards as a renegade province. Taipei has pledged to defend its freedom.
“The difference between mainland China and Taiwan needs to be resolved through peaceful methods,” Wallace said, adding that he saw parallels with Hong Kong.
The former British colony was handed over to China by in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” framework, allowing it to enjoy freedoms, such as those of expression and assembly, and an independent legal system, not enjoyed on the mainland.
But Communist-ruled China has imposed a sweeping national security law to crack down on dissent. Beijing and Hong Kong officials deny Western accusations that law impinges on the city’s freedoms.
“I think it’s why we were so worried about Hong Kong, because Taiwan was effectively included in the ‘one country, two systems’,” Wallace said. “And if you trash that and you break those commandments, what does that mean for Taiwan?”