Beijing has never renounced the use of force to bring Taipei under its control, as emphasized by President Xi Jinping in a major new year’s speech, prompting Taiwan to seek to bolster its domestic defence industry.
Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said on Monday that while China’s armed forces were growing apace, they still lacked the capability to launch a full assault on the island in East Asia that it perceives as its breakaway province, reported Reuters.
In its annual report on China’s military proficiency, delivered to parliament, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry was cited by the outlet as offering diverse scenarios for Chinese actions with respect to the “renegade region”, ranging from blockades to seizing offshore islands.
China’s military has been developing new technology and weapons, readying itself for new types of battle and enhancing live fire drills, but “on the operation of tactics and strategy toward Taiwan, it is still restricted by the natural geographic environment of the Taiwan Strait,” says the report cited by the outlet, adding that the country’s “landing equipment and logistics abilities are insufficient.”
“It still does not have the formal combat capability to fully assault Taiwan,” concludes the report.
Beijing, which has been reportedly stepping up its military activities around what it views as its sovereign territory, sending aircraft and ships to circle the island on drills in the past few years, has never ruled out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.
This was emphasized in a New Year message by President Xi Jinping.
Xi, who is pressing ahead with an impressive military modernisation programme reportedly incorporating stealth fighters, aircraft carriers and other equipment, underscored that Taiwan’s unification with China was inevitable.
As he spoke in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the 40th anniversary of the issuing of the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan” – a key cross-strait policy statement – he warned that China reserved the right to use military force to achieve reunification, which was “the right path.”
Slamming Taiwan’s independence as a “reversal of history and a dead-end road,” he said:
“We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means.”
Xi added that Beijing would respect Taiwanese citizens’ “legitimate rights”, in an arrangement similar to the “one country, two systems” model used to govern Hong Kong.
“We are willing to create broad space for peaceful reunification, but will leave no room for any form of separatist activities,” he said.
Taiwan Boosts Defences
In the face of such statements coming from China, Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s first female president, has made building up the domestic defence industry a priority, with the island buying more equipment from the United States, its most important arms supplier.
The Chinese authorities have repeatedly protested over the supply of weapons by the US to the island as violating the “One China principle”.
In July 2020 the United States approved a $620mln recertification package to Taiwan for Patriot Advanced Capability-3 air defence missiles, less than two months after it approved a sale of torpedoes to the breakaway province.
The deal was slammed by Beijing, which imposed sanctions on US defence corporation Lockheed Martin.
Tsai Ing-wen has insisted she hopes to steer clear of open conflict and stated that she seeks peace with China, urging the sides to “handle our differences peacefully and as equals”, reports the outlet.
“I am calling on China that it must face the reality of the existence of the Republic of China (Taiwan),” said Taiwan’s president, adding that Beijing “must respect the commitment of the 23 million people of Taiwan to freedom and democracy”.
Taiwan has been governed independently from mainland China since 1949, with Beijing viewing the island as its province.