Taiwan is committed to defending its democracy against an increasingly aggressive China, the island’s president has vowed, warning of “catastrophic consequences” for the region should it fall. The comments from Tsai Ing-wen, in an essay published on Tuesday, came amid record-breaking incursions by Chinese warplanes into its air defense zone. On Tuesday Taiwan’s premier, Su Tseng-chang, said the “over the top” activity violated regional peace, and Taiwan needed to be on alert.
Twenty-five Chinese air force aircraft including fighters and nuclear-capable bombers entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Monday, the island’s government said, the largest reported incursion to date. While there was no immediate comment from Beijing, the news comes after the U.S. State Department on Friday issued new guidelines that will enable U.S. officials to meet more freely with Taiwanese officials, further deepening ties with Taipei.
Prosecutors in Taiwan on Saturday sought an arrest warrant for the owner of an unmanned truck that rolled onto a rail track and caused the country’s worst train disaster in decades, killing 50 people and injuring 178. The train was carrying 494 people at the start of a long holiday weekend on Friday when it smashed into the construction truck that slid down a hillside above the tracks, the Taiwan Railways Administration said.
At least 48 people have been killed and dozens more injured after a train carrying nearly 500 crashed and then derailed in a tunnel in Taiwan. The eight-carriage train reportedly hit a construction vehicle that had slipped onto the tracks at the tunnel’s mouth. Rescuers combed badly damaged carriages inside the tunnel to find survivors, some of whom smashed windows to flee.
China has warned that attempts by Taiwan to seek independence “means war”. The warning comes days after China stepped up its military activities and flew warplanes near the island. It also comes after new US President Joe Biden reaffirmed his commitment to Taiwan, and set out his stance in Asia. China sees democratic Taiwan as a breakaway province, but Taiwan sees itself as a sovereign state.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged the people of Taiwan to accept it “must and will be” reunited with China. In a speech marking 40 years since the start of improving ties, he reiterated Beijing’s call for peaceful unification on a one-country-two-systems basis. However, he also warned that China reserved the right to use force. While Taiwan is self-governed and de facto independent, it has never formally declared independence from the mainland.
The Chinese Oscars, the Golden Horse Awards, highlighted the controversial topic of Taiwanese independence, showing a political divide between directors and actors. Documentary filmmaker Fu Yue used her acceptance speech to call for Taiwan’s recognition as ‘an independent entity.’ The chair of the committee, Oscar award-winning director Ang Lee, commented that everyone is allowed to speak freely.
The U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services is scheduled to visit Taiwan in coming days in the highest-level visit by an American Cabinet official since the break in formal diplomatic relations between Washington and Taipei in 1979. The visit by Alex Azar, will likely create new friction between the U.S. and China, which claims Taiwan as its own territory to be annexed by force if necessary.
The US State Department has approved a potential arms sale to Taiwan, estimated to be worth $2.2bn, the Pentagon said. The deal is for 108 Abrams tanks, 250 Stinger missiles and related equipment. China’s foreign ministry has called on the US to “immediately cancel” the proposed sale. China regards Taiwan as part of its territory which should be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.
The US Navy sailed two destroyers, the USS Stethem and USS William P. Lawrence, through the Taiwan Strait on Sunday, referring to the operation as a “routine” transit. While Chinese vessels shadowed the US warships during the transit, officials said that all interactions were “safe and professional.” The Trump administration has sought to make the Taiwan Strait transits more routine, with the operations now taking place on a monthly basis. The approximately 110-mile-wide strait, which separates the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, is seen as a potential geopolitical flashpoint should Beijing ever seek to take the island of Taiwan by force.