Recent Chinese military operations in response to high-level US visits to Taiwan have “already destroyed” an unofficial sea border between the two sides, the self-ruled island’s defense chief said Wednesday.
Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told a legislative committee that Beijing has “already destroyed the median line, but if it crosses Taiwan’s red line on the east side of the strait, Taiwan will definitely counter-attack,” referring to a median line about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Taiwan’s waters which both sides have largely avoided crossing, until now.
It is difficult to restore things to the status before this August, when China launched massive military exercises in response to a trip to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he said.
Following the visit, the People’s Liberation Army stepped up its almost daily sorties across the Taiwan Strait, crossing into what Taiwan calls its air defense identification zone (ADIZ).
Beijing refuses to acknowledge any airspace zone, as China claims Taiwan as its “breakaway province.” However, Taipei has insisted on its independence since 1949, with diplomatic relations with 14 nations.
Taiwan’s legislature on Wednesday held a meeting of the Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee where ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Lo Chih-cheng asked Chiu “if the median line still exists.”
“The median line in the Taiwan Strait was originally a tacit agreement, but this tacit agreement has already been destroyed by it (China), and it will be difficult to restore it to its previous state,” Chiu said.
– Changes since August
The ruling party also proposed a 12.9% increase in the defense budget after Premier Su Tseng-chang proposed a $90.01 billion budget for fiscal 2023 on Tuesday.
More than half a dozen delegations from Washington, which include serving and former lawmakers and officials, have paid trips to Taipei this year, while the administration of US President Joe Biden has signed orders to supply arms to Taiwan.
Biden has even reiterated the US will extend direct military support to Taiwan if China invades the island nation.
Chiu said the island nation’s armed forces also “have patrol areas and training zones east of the median line, which has not changed.”
“The military will stand firm and not give in and that it has a red line,” he added.
“If that red line is crossed, the armed forces will definitely fight back,” Chiu said, according to daily Taiwan News.
Explaining the differences between the past Chinese exercises and ones after Pelosi’s August visit, Chiu said: “The only differences are the increase in strength and the demonstration of many ‘firsts’ such as the ‘first joint operation,’ ‘the first time to get so close to Taiwan,’ ‘the first time to form a siege’.”
The People’s Liberation Army mounted joint operations of its land, air, and naval forces around Taiwan, forcing the closure of the airspace to flights while Taiwan’s sea routes were also briefly affected.
The purpose was to make Taiwan feel pressure, and the intensity, quantity, and frequency of military activity were increasing,” Chiu acknowledged.