As tensions continue to inch towards a boiling point, a Taiwanese security official said that any Chinese blockade offshore of its island would be considered an “act of war” and that it would not surrender.
China’s Blockade Will Be Considered “Act of War”
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and her administration have always maintained that they would prefer peace talks. Still, it would not let aggressors take the island easily and would defend themselves if attacked. However, the autonomous region has never specified what it considered an attack—hence the recent report by Reuters regarding a Taiwanese official’s declaration was rather unusual.
Strategists had first recognized the blockage approach on the island’s trading route in case Beijing decided to confront Taipei indirectly.
This was also previously stressed by Vice Admiral Karl Thomas last month, pointing out how China could avoid full-scale invasion, all while gripping Taiwan by its throat by blocking its import and exports.
“They have a very large navy, and if they want to bully and put ships around Taiwan, they very much can do that […] Clearly if they do something that’s non-kinetic, which, you know, a blockade is less kinetic, then that allows the international community to weigh in and to work together on how we’re going to solve that challenge,” Thomas said.
The strain between neighbors further escalated following US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island in early August. To show its contention at the meeting, China conducted military exercises around the island that they repeatedly claimed, including missile firing and blockade drills. Since then, the former has continued to perform military operations off the coast of Taiwan, albeit on a smaller scale, and wonder how a skirmish with Beijing could play out for the latter and its allies—leading us to “the unusually strong and direct language” of the Taiwanese security official.
— Intel Mule (@Intel_Mule) October 2, 2022
The anonymous senior official told Reuters that the blockade from China would be considered an act of war, including “seizing an offshore island,” nonetheless believed that “Beijing was unlikely to take either of those actions at that moment.”
“Their only purpose to seize (offshore islands) is to force us to negotiate or surrender. But we will not surrender or negotiate,” the official added.
Many military strategists believed this approach would be likely—even Taiwan’s defense ministry agreed, saying that China could try and seize one of its islands, including Green Island, Orchid Island, Little Liuqiu, Matsu Islands, Kinmen, and Penghu Islands.
A Full-scale Invasion Is Still Possible
A large-scale Chinese military exercise near the independent island country can still possibly occur, especially with its 2024 presidential election fastly approaching, and this is something Taipei is currently worried about.
According to the anonymous senior official, other possible Chinese actions could include stepping up its “grey-zone” tactics near Taiwan, including incursions with militia boats or cyber-attacks. In addition, targeting its vulnerable submarine cable could also be on Beijing’s cards, effectively cutting Taipei’s external communication.
Thus, the importance of deterrence is highlighted. Other Taiwan allies, besides the US, could sail warships around Taiwan Strait at least once a month to show China that any attack on the independent island would not go unanswered.
“Building up deterrence is very important. Not just America, European countries and Japan should join the force of deterrence,” the senior Taiwanese official told Reuters.
Taiwan President Tsai said it would ramp up its defense spending by up to T$586.3 billion ($19.41 billion) next year to prepare and expand its military capability in case the worst-case scenario happens. The double-digit increase would include funding for new fighter jets.
Aside from increasing its defense spending, Taiwan is also set to bolster its protection over strategic resources. For example, in addressing threats over its submarine cables, one solution the island country has done so far is creating an alternative subsea cable called Apricot, which is expected to be operational in 2024. They’re also looking into investing and setting up SpaceX Starlink to facilitate internet access without needing physical connections over land or sea.
2 Kuang Hua VI-class missile boats escorting the amphibious command ship, Kaohsiung LCC-1 (former USS Dukes County LST-735), on which the 🇹🇼Taiwanese version of Aegis combat system is under testing.😎🙏👏
source (full clip): 👉https://t.co/5BTkuLQYmz pic.twitter.com/3mTjNpmCes
— Taiwan Military (@TaiwanMilitary) September 26, 2022
Last month, in an interview broadcast, US President Joe Biden declared it American forces would defend the democratically governed island in the event of a Chinese invasion, stressing that “a pressure in the Taiwan Strait is pressuring chip supplies.”
His comment had broken the long-standing “strategic ambiguity” policy. While the White House later clarified that it would the US policy towards conflicted Taiwan remained unchanged, Beijing said Biden’s remarks sent a “seriously wrong signal” to separatist forces seeking Taiwan independence, as reported by Reuters.