Taiwan’s military relations with Beijing have plunged to their lowest point in four decades, the island’s defence minister warned on Wednesday, following a string of record Chinese jet incursions into Taipei’s air defence zone.
“For the military, the current situation is the most grim in over 40 years since I’ve joined the service,” Chiu Kuo-cheng told parliament as some 150 Chinese warplanes have breached Taiwan’s air defence zone since Beijing marked its National Day on Friday.
The incursions have sparked criticism by Washington and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen warned in an article published on Tuesday of “catastrophic consequences” if the island were to fall to China.
Taiwan lives under the constant threat of invasion by China, which views the self-ruled democratic island as its territory to be re-taken one day, by force if necessary.
President Xi Jinping, who has called the seizure of Taiwan “inevitable,” also described the relations between China and Taiwan as “grim” in a letter to Taiwan’s newly-elected main opposition leader last week.
Chiu warned that even “slight carelessness” or “miscalculation” could spark “a crisis” in the Taiwan Strait, adding Beijing would be in a position to launch a full-scale attack in 2025.
“It is capable now but it has to calculate how much cost it will have to pay and what kind of outcome it wishes to achieve. After 2025 the cost and losses would be lowered to a minimum,” Chiu said, without providing more details.
Beijing has ramped up military, diplomatic and economic pressure since Tsai’s 2016 election, as she views the island as “already independent” and not part of its “one China”.
Tsai said in an article published Tuesday that Taiwan would “do whatever it takes” to guard against threats but the island hopes for peaceful coexistence with China.
Her government urged Beijing to stop “irresponsible provocative actions” after a record 56 Chinese jets including nuclear-capable bombers crossed into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday.
The ADIZ is not the same as Taiwan’s territorial airspace but includes a far greater area that overlaps with part of China’s own air defence identification zone and even includes some of the mainland.
Last year, a record 380 Chinese military jets made incursions into Taiwan’s defence zone. The number as of October this year has already exceeded 600.