Asia Preps For An Armed Clash Between Taiwan And China

REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter

Several regional actors in Asia are preparing for a military clash between mainland China and Taiwan.

Taiwan’s armed forces took part in a two-day drill simulating a Chinese invasion this week, amid deteriorating ties between Beijing and Taipei. Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) and the U.S. military will participate in exercises mimicking a military confrontation between the mainland and Taiwan next week.

In the latter exercise, the U.S. military will participate as an observer.

The Taiwanese drill imagined a situation in which Chinese warships crossed the Taiwan Strait to launch an offensive against the self-ruled island. The drills included tanks, attack helicopters, artillery, and paratroopers.

The Japanese exercise will explore the new capabilities of the SDF under the provisions of amended security legislation expanding the scope of the SDF to include collective security operations.

While both simulations were planned months in advance, the timing is interesting.

President-elect Donald Trump will take office as president Friday. While China has repeatedly been the target of Trump’s jabs, his decision to cast uncertainty over the future of the one-China policy has severely rattled Beijing.

Trump accepted a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in early December, something that no president or president-elect has done since 1979. One week later, he questioned the value of upholding the one-China policy without concessions from Beijing on issues affecting the U.S.-China bilateral relationship.

Last week, Trump revealed that “everything is under negotiation, including one China.”

In December, China flew heavy bombers around Taiwan, and in January, China sent its aircraft carrier battle group led by the Liaoning through the Taiwan Strait.

If Trump opens the “Pandora’s box of lethal potential” that is the Taiwan issue, “a period of fierce, damaging interactions will be unavoidable, as Beijing will have no choice but to take off the gloves,” the China Daily wrote in response to Trump’s most recent comments.

“Time will tell after Trump’s team takes over the US, whether it will willfully utilize the one-China policy as leverage to blackmail Beijing or restrain itself in actual practice,” the Global Times wrote shortly after Trump’s comments last month.

“It might be time for the Chinese mainland to reformulate its Taiwan policy, make the use of force as a main option and carefully prepare for it,” the paper argued.

Rhetoric of this nature is becoming more prevalent as cross-strait ties deteriorate, a process that has been ongoing since the election of Tsai Ing-wen last summer, and marked increases in tensions between Beijing and the incoming administration.

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