'No Doubt' China Building Up Military to Target Taiwan, Country's Foreign Minister Says

There is "no doubt" that China is building up its military capabilities to target Taiwan, the island nation's foreign minister said yesterday.

Appearing on Indian television channel WION on the segment "Straight Talk," Joseph Wu said Taiwan was "on the front line" of Chinese authoritarian expansion.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and her top diplomats have been trying to strengthen ties with New Delhi, seizing on this summer's border conflict between India and China, and making friends for the democratic state wherever possible.

Despite no official reciprocation from Prime Minister Narendra Modi or his officials, the public in India appears to have taken to Tsai, especially on Twitter.

#Taiwan is lucky to be home to many Indian restaurants, & Taiwanese people love them. I always go for chana masala and naan, while #chai always takes me back to my travels in #India, and memories of a vibrant, diverse & colourful country. What are your favourite Indian dishes? pic.twitter.com/IJbf5yZFLY

— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) October 15, 2020

Public interest in Tsai's government culminated this week in Wu's remote interview with WION host Palki Sharma, who asked the foreign minister about reports China was increasing its military presence to invade Taiwan.

"It is true that the Chinese are building up their military, targeting at Taiwan," Wu said. "Not only [do] they try to build up their missile capabilities, but they also try to build up their conventional capabilities."

"I think the target is Taiwan," Wu added. "There's no doubt about it."

Cross-strait tensions

The 65-year-old former head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S.—Taiwan's de facto embassy in Washington—also alluded to reports about Chinese warplane activity around the island in recent months.

The senior diplomat said: "They're also trying to intensify their military activities around Taiwan. In the last couple of months, we saw the Chinese military activities, especially the activities in the air, have been increasing tremendously.

"They not only try to intrude into our air identification zone, they also try to cut through the median line of the Taiwan Strait, which has been safeguarding peace and stability and the status quo for decades."

Taiwan defenses

The foreign minister called recent movements by the People's Liberation Army "very alarming," before stressing the importance of Taiwan's national defense and touching on recent arms purchases from the U.S.

"This is very alarming," Wu said, adding: "I think what is even more alarming is that the Chinese government does not hide its intentions, that they may want to use force against Taiwan, so we have been trying to beef up our own defense capabilities to prevent China from thinking that they can take Taiwan over very quickly.

"We also try to procure military hardware from other countries like the U.S. We also try to work together with other countries for security areas."

I think the target is Taiwan. There's no doubt about it.
Joseph Wu

On the question of an all-out conflict in the Taiwan Strait, Wu appeared to be encouraged by the Trump administration's stance on maintaining peace in the region, but insisted the people of Taiwan would need to stand up for themselves.

"This is our position: Taiwan is our country. Taiwan government and Taiwan military has [sic] the sole responsibility of defending our own country," he said. "We have stated again and again that the government, the people, are determined to defend themselves."

He added: "If we are not determined to protect ourselves, we have no right to ask other countries to provide support to Taiwan when it comes to the absolute necessary point.

"But I do see that the United States has been making its presence known in this region. They have shown to other countries in this part of the world that their navy or even their air force is here to deter the aggression.

"But I need to point to the fact that Taiwan is responsible for its own defense, and we are absolutely determined to defend ourselves."

Beijing expansion

Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a breakaway province, was "on the front line" of the Chinese Communist Party's attempts to expand its "force of authoritarianism," Wu said, pointing to notable incursions in the East and South China Seas, as well as its ongoing border conflict with India since May.

He told Sharma: "China is trying to export its authoritarian order, and Taiwan happens to be on the front line."

Wu suggested Taiwan was a "scapegoat" for Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who may be using the island as a distraction to shift focus away from domestic difficulties such as the impact the U.S–China trade war is having on its economy as well as the economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which halted global exports.

Building friendships

Wu said Taiwan and its government "treasure" the current U.S.–Taiwan relationship, and that Taipei would continue to improve relations with Washington.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was critical of Chinese diplomats yesterday while commenting on recent events in Fiji, where representatives from Taipei and Beijing clashed at an event to mark Taiwan's national day.

Wu said the incident "created a national anger" in Taiwan, and that Chinese representatives in Fiji were trying to "resort to physical violence to stop us from celebrating our national day."

He said finally that he could see Taipei and New Delhi building a "closer relationship," and that there was a "fever" and "craving" for India in Taiwan.

Total Taiwan investment in India currently stands at $2.3 billion, with roughly 65,000 "good quality jobs" created in the process, the official said.

Wu noted that a free trade agreement or similar would significantly improve economic relations between the two nations.

Chinese opposition

However, establishing any sort of relationship with Taiwan is sure to be fraught with myriad diplomatic challenges.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Zhao Lijian warned India against any move toward a closer friendship with Taiwan.

"There is only one China and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China's territory," Zhao said, according to a transcript on the ministry's website.

He added: "China is firmly opposed to any official exchanges of any form and the signing of any agreement of official nature between Taiwan and any country having diplomatic relations with China. The Indian side should earnestly abide by the one-China principle and handle the Taiwan question prudently and properly."

Chinese state newspapers Global Times and China Daily both put out a series of editorials yesterday issuing a similar but less subtle warning.

Representing the Chinese government's more hawkish views, the former said that India "should be aware that playing Taiwan card to challenge China's red line will have severe consequences."

In a similar piece published in China Daily, which is also circulated in English in the U.S., the newspaper warned that it could "prove costly" for New Delhi if Modi's government "makes trouble over Taiwan."

Even the U.K. failed to escape the watchful eyes of the Chinese state media.

After U.K. Minister of State for Trade Policy Greg Hands recently signaled his intention to start trade talks with Taiwan, Global Times mocked the U.K by saying it "lives under the U.S. shadow," ending with the line: "Playing the 'Taiwan card' is a dead end for all countries, including the U.K."

Taiwan Minister Joseph Wu
File photo: Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu speaks during a press conference in Taipei on November 22, 2019. SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images