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Taiwan on high alert: Fears rising that China will invade while world focus is on Ukraine

Recently, China has increased its incursions into Taiwanese air space to record levels

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a signing ceremony in Moscow, Russia, Jun. 5, 2019. (Photo: Reuters/Evgenia Novozhenina)

While the world is busy watching Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continued onslaught in Ukraine, fears are increasing that China – emboldened by Putin’s invasion of a neighboring sovereign state – will take advantage of the world’s intense focus on the crisis in Ukraine to invade Taiwan.

Chinese President Xi Jinping views Taiwan as part of China and has declared, on numerous occasions, that the island “must be, will be reunified” with Taiwan. President Xi Jinping’s desire to reunify Taiwan with China forms a basic tenet of China’s policy towards Taiwan and a central part of Xi Jinping’s nationalist doctrine, according to which, reunification is “a must for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in the new era.” 

The great “rejuvenation” refers to China’s ambitious goal of becoming the world’s dominant global power by 2049, the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the Communist People’s Republic of China. 

President Xi Jinping has openly made it clear that he is willing to use force on Taiwan. 

“We are willing to create broad space for peaceful reunification, but will leave no room for any form of separatist activities,” Xi has said. “We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means.” 

Taiwan’s current leader, President Tsai Ing-wen and her party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP),  have said that they will not bow down to Chinese pressure, which has escalated in recent years. 

China has increased its incursions into the Taiwanese air defense identification zone (ADIZ) to record levels, a fact that forces the Taiwanese air force to be on constant alert. China’s tactic is known as gray-zone warfare, aimed at exhausting and breaking down Taiwan’s defenses for the ultimate purpose of getting Taiwan to give up on resisting unification with China. 

In recent months, China stepped up its military activities around Taiwan even further, raising fears that China will soon stage its own takeover of Taiwan. 

The U.S., in an attempt to bolster support for Taiwan under the current circumstances, recently sent a delegation to the island. 

“The United States will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo and will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues, consistent with the wishes and best interests of the people of Taiwan,” Mike Mullen, former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who arrived with the delegation in Taiwan, said.

There are clearly mixed opinions in the U.S. intelligence community on the current risk of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, however. At the annual House of Representatives Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats Tuesday. CIA director William Burns took a more pessimistic view, underlining that the world must not underestimate China’s resolve on Taiwan, while Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Scott Berrier disagreed that the two scenarios could even be compared.

“I would just say analytically, I would not underestimate President Xi and the Chinese leadership's determination with regard to Taiwan,” William Burns said. “I do think ... that they have been surprised and unsettled to some extent by what they've seen in Ukraine over the last 12 days, everything from the strength of the Western reaction to the way in which Ukrainians have fiercely resisted…”

Berrier said Taiwan and Ukraine were “two different things completely.” He downplayed the risk that Russia’s actions could embolden China to spring into action, claiming that the US presence in the Indo-Pacific is having a deterrent effect.

“I also believe that our deterrence posture in the Pacific puts a very different perspective on all of this,” Berrier said. “We do know that (China) (is) watching very, very carefully what happens and how this plays out.”

While China is closely watching the war in Ukraine with its own ends in mind, it also reaffirmed its friendship with Russia – which it has been reticent to condemn.

China and Russia “will always maintain strategic focus and steadily advance our comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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