China May Exploit U.S. Election Uncertainty to Target Taiwan, Foreign Minister Warns

Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu warned Monday that China could exploit election uncertainty in the U.S. and target the island nation with its military.

Taiwan has made "all necessary preparations" after President Tsai Ing-wen convened a high-level security meeting and ordered troops on "high alert," the defense ministry added Tuesday.

The hotly contested November 3 presidential election is being watched closely by the democratic island of 23 million and its government, which has grown in confidence in its stand-off with Beijing, backed by President Donald Trump's anti-China stance.

But Taipei is preparing for a change in dynamic in the Taiwan Strait as uncertainty grows in direct correlation with Democratic candidate Joe Biden's election prospects.

Wu told lawmakers at a Foreign and National Defense Committee meeting on Monday it was possible Beijing could seize the opportunity to escalate military threats against the country, which it claims as part of its territory.

"We are evaluating many possibilities, one of which is that during a lengthy period of post-election uncertainty, China may use its military to threaten Taiwan," Wu said.

"For the time being, there has been no further [military] movement on the Chinese side. If they planned on using their army, there would be certain signals beforehand," he added.

Wu, who has been leading Tsai's multilateral foreign policy endeavors, told legislators he expected the U.S. to remain active in the region irrespective of the political situation.

"But regardless of any certainties or uncertainties in the United States, I believe the U.S. will maintain a military presence in the region, or even increase its presence, in order to deter China from using its military power," the minister added.

He said: "We will remain in close communication with the U.S. to ensure we have enough intelligence, and to ensure we have sufficient time to respond [to any threats] in the most adequate way."

Wu told the committee the Tsai administration was "actively pursuing" talks with Washington for a trade and investment framework agreement, but could not provide an exact time frame for when he hoped negotiations would continue.

Combat ready

The People's Liberation Army flew eight warplanes—including six fighter jets—into Taiwan's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday, the island's Ministry of National Defense reported.

Chinese reconnaissance and fighter aircraft activity in the Taiwan Strait has increased since mid-September, with Taiwan's defense ministry now posting daily updates about PLA warplane incursions into its ADIZ, the recognition of which is not stipulated under international law.

At a press briefing Tuesday, Defense Minister Yen De-fa revealed Tsai had asked for the country's armed forces to be placed on "high alert," and that the military ready "all contingency measures" in the event of a shift in the cross-strait dynamic resulting from the U.S. election.

At the high-level national security meeting on Saturday, Tsai listened to reports about the potential impact the election could have on the region and the wider implications for U.S.–China relations, Yen said.

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Taiwan
File photo: Anti-landing spikes on the coast of Kinmen, the front line islands of Taiwan. SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images