Taiwan will not initiate a conflict with China, but will defend itself “to the hilt,” Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng warned on Thursday, amid heightened tensions across the Taiwan Strait that have alarmed the international community.
Taiwan, a major semiconductor producer, has stated repeatedly that it will defend itself if attacked, but will not “move rashly” and prefers to keep the status quo with China.
“What is obvious is that the Republic of China will not instigate or launch a war,” Chiu said during a parliament committee meeting, using Taiwan’s official name. “But if there are movements, we would meet the enemy full on.”
Military tensions with China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory, are at an all-time high, according to Chiu, who also predicted that by 2025, China will be capable of waging a “full-scale” invasion.
He was speaking after China launched four days of mass air force incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, beginning on October 1, as part of a pattern of what Taipei perceives as increased military intimidation by Beijing.
China’s planes have stayed well away from Taiwan’s airspace, concentrating their operations in the southwestern portion of Taiwan’s air defense zone, and no shots have been fired.
The ministry, in a report to parliament ahead of Chiu’s appearance before lawmakers, warned China of strong countermeasures if its forces got too close to the island.
Chiu agreed with an assessment from a lawmaker that China’s abilities were constrained by a limited mid-air refueling capacity, meaning it has only H-6 bombers and Y-8 anti-submarine and reconnaissance aircraft that have flown into the Bashi Channel that separates Taiwan from the Philippines.
Chinese fighters have kept much closer to China’s coast, according to maps of their activity drawn up by Chiu’s ministry.
“Their goals are to put pressure on Taiwan on the one hand, and to show the rest of the world that we have the power to scare away and obstruct foreign military forces from getting involved on the other,” he said.
On Wednesday, China described its military actions as a “fair” response to threats to peace and stability, and accused Taiwan’s “collusion” with foreign forces – a veiled reference to the US – for the escalation of tensions.
On Wednesday, China’s Washington embassy said it had objected to the US government about a meeting between Taiwan’s de facto ambassador and senior US diplomats, as well as Taiwan’s army chief, Hsu Yen-visit pu’s to the US.
“The U.S. should not fantasise (about) seeking China’s support and cooperation while wantonly challenging China’s red line on the Taiwan question,” it said.
Speaking earlier in the week, Chiu said Hsu was not in the United States on a secret trip but as part of regular annual exchanges, according to Taiwan’s official Central News Agency.