Taiwan Says It Can 'Counter Attack' After China Practices Invasion

Taiwan has warned China it will take all necessary defensive steps after Beijing conducted large military drills and sent fighter jets over the midway point of the strategic Taiwan Strait which separates the two nations.

Taiwan's defense ministry issued a statement Monday condemning what it called "harassment and threats" from the mainland, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) retains the goal of absorbing the democratic island under its "One China" policy.

Chinese jets crossed the midline of the strait on Friday and Saturday, Reuters reported, entering Taiwan's air defense identification zone and prompting the military to scramble fighters to intercept the aircraft.

Chinese forces also held combat drills near the strait on Friday, which state media lauded as evidence that the People's Liberation Army is ready to invade Taiwan if necessary. Chinese officials have long vowed to take control of Taiwan by military force if diplomacy fails. China considers the island a wayward province and fiercely opposes its independence.

The Taiwanese defense ministry said Monday it has "clearly defined" procedures to respond to foreign aggression, citing the "high frequency of harassment and threats from the enemy's warships and aircraft this year," according to Reuters.

The ministry added that the island has the right to "self-defence and to counter attack," though said its policy was to pursue "no escalation of conflict and no triggering incidents." Still, the ministry said Taiwan was "not afraid of the enemy."

Tensions between Beijing and Taipei have been increasing over the past year, fuelled in part by the growing confrontation between the U.S. and China about a range of issues including the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week's Chinese drills coincided with the visit of Under Secretary of State Keith Krach to Taipei—the second high-level U.S. diplomat to visit the island in the past two months. The U.S. does not officially recognize Taiwan, but is bound by law to help defend the island against invasion and has long supported its armed forces via weapon sales.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has long warned of increasing Chinese aggression in the strait, and denounced last week's drills.

"I believe these activities are no help to China's international image and, what's more, have put Taiwan's people even more on their guard, understanding even better the true nature of the Chinese communist regime," she told reporters.

Tsai is the leader of the liberal, nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and has been broadly critical of the CCP. Elected for a second term earlier this year, Tsai has accused Beijing of meddling in Taiwanese politics to try and undermine her and the DPP.

"The Chinese communists must restrain themselves, and not provoke," Tsai told reporters, warning: "China's existence is indeed aggressive and will bring a definite threat."

Chinese state media took a characteristically aggressive stance on recent tensions, publishing editorials this weekend attacking U.S.-Taiwanese ties and hinting at the possibility of future conflict.

The China Daily newspaper—owned by the CCP's propaganda department—said the U.S. was trying to use Taiwan as a pawn in its confrontation with Beijing. "The U.S. administration should not be blinkered in its desperation to contain the peaceful rise of China and indulge in the U.S. addiction to its hegemony," it said.

Global Times—a nationalistic newspaper also run by the CCP—claimed last week's drills as evidence of Beijing's ability to take Taiwan. "The U.S. and Taiwan must not misjudge the situation, or believe the exercise is a bluff," the newspaper warned. "Should they continue to make provocations, a war will inevitably break out."

Taiwan, China, military, drills, exercises
Three U.S.-made AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters take part in the annual Han Kuang military drills in Taichung, Taiwan on July 16, 2020. Tensions are mounting in Taiwan after China practices an invasion. SAM YEH/AFP via Getty Images/Getty