Taiwanese defense minister Chiu Kuo-cheng believes China will be able to launch a “full-scale” invasion of Taiwan by 2025, noting that current tensions are the “toughest” he has seen in over four decades.
Driving the news: Chiu made the assessment at a parliamentary meeting Wednesday, days after Beijing sent 150 warplanes to the self-governed island’s Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The area is international airspace but Taipei considers it a buffer, according to AP News.
What the U.S. is doing: While Chiu said Taiwan urgently needs to strengthen its defenses — by planning to spend $8.6 billion for domestic weapons — the island has not made any moves to counter China’s aerial incursions. Amid current tensions, the island finds the U.S. as its staunchest ally, with some American leaders hinting at a mobilization of forces.
- Warplanes of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ramped up their presence in the zone on Oct. 1, which marked the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). By Tuesday, a record number of 56 aircraft flew into the area.
- The warplanes included fighter jets and bombers. While most of them headed southwest of the zone, some flew to the southeast section, which happens to be close to a military zone in eastern Taiwan, according to the South China Morning Post.
- The PLA has reportedly dispatched warplanes nearly every day in the past year, but the last few days also saw their arrival at night. This left Taiwanese defense forces scrambling in response, as well as fearing that any misjudgment could lead to an escalation.
- Speaking to legislators on Wednesday, Chiu described the current situation as “the most severe in the 40 years since I’ve enlisted.” He said China has the ability to attack the island now, but a “full-scale” invasion will likely occur in 2025.
- Chiu’s military believe that 2025 will mark the maturity of China’s anti-intervention and blockade capabilities around the Taiwan Strait, according to CNN. By then, Beijing, in theory, would be able to keep the cost of war at a minimum.
- “If you’re out, the Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii, you’re watching it day to day, we have a significant amount of capability forward in the region to tamp down any such potential,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks told the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) last Friday. “We have good relations, of course, with Taiwan. We have commitments to Taiwan that are enduring since the 1970s. And central to that is helping the Taiwanese with their self-defense capabilities.”
- White House press secretary Jen Psaki addressed China’s incursions at a briefing on Monday. “We remain concerned by the People’s Republic of China’s provocative military activity near Taiwan, which is destabilizing, risks miscalculations and undermines regional peace and stability,” she said, adding that the U.S. commitment to Taiwan is “rock solid.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed the same response in Paris on Wednesday.
- A bipartisan pair of lawmakers — Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) — also expressed support in a letter to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Wednesday. They cited federal law and commitments the U.S. had made during President Ronald Reagan’s administration. “For decades, Congress has been one of Taiwan’s strongest allies in upholding America’s commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act and the Six Assurances. You can count on our continued support in ensuring Taiwan remains one of our most important partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” they wrote.
- President Joe Biden himself said he had spoken with Chinese President Xi Jinping about Taiwan and that they had agreed to abide by the “Taiwan agreement.” Under the policy, Washington recognizes China over Taiwan as long as Beijing refrains from attacking the island, according to NPR.
Aside from the U.S., Taiwan finds support from the U.K., Canada, New Zealand, Japan and the Netherlands. While China was dispatching its sorties, 17 ships from the six countries’ navies performed joint maneuvers off Okinawa, a Japanese island on the northeast of Taiwan. The move reportedly included three aircraft carriers and a Japanese helicopter carrier. It aimed to show the countries’ commitment to a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” AP News noted.