Tensions are on the rise between China and Taiwan, the self-ruled, democratic island that China claims as part of its own territory.
A senior Chinese official issued a statement this week in a state-run newspaper saying Taiwan would undoubtedly come under Chinese control due to the economic, political, social, cultural and military superiority of the “motherland,” Reuters reported.
“The contrast in power across the Taiwan Strait will become wider and wider, and we will have a full, overwhelming strategic advantage over Taiwan,” wrote Liu Junchuan, the liaison head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office.
For decades China has threatened to use military force to bring Taiwan, a U.S. ally, under direct control of the Chinese government in Beijing.
More recently, frequent Chinese military drills around Taiwan have cut off access to the island’s dwindling list of allies, according to Reuters.
China’s exercises come amid a growing suspicion by Beijing that Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen will pursue formal independence, according to a Reuters report Tuesday.
China claims that the military exercises were routine, but Taiwan’s defense ministry issued a report that Chinese bombers and advanced fighter jets have conducted 16 drills directly over or adjacent to Taiwan, Reuters reports.
“The Chinese military’s strength continues to grow rapidly,” the report said.
“There have been massive developments in military reforms, combined operations, weapons development and production, the building of overseas military bases and military exercises, and the military threat towards us grows daily.”
Escalating aggression from Beijing recently prompted Taiwan’s mainland affairs minister, Chang Hsiao-Yueh, to issue a warning of her own, declaring China would suffer significantly if it invaded the island, according to a National Interest report Monday.
“If they invade Taiwan militarily they will pay a very very high price. And so far I believe that’s the last resort if all the other means [of unification] are failed then finally they will do that,” she said during a briefing in Taipei.
Tensions between China and Taiwan spiked earlier this month amid discussions of U.S. ships making port visits to Taiwan, a topic explored in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, according to a Reuters report.
“The day that a U.S. Navy vessel arrives in Kaohsiung [Taiwan’s main deep-water port] is the day that our People’s Liberation Army unifies Taiwan with military force,” said Chinese official Li Kexin.
Amid growing tensions in the region, both Japan and South Korea are reportedly investigating options to operate the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter on board their respective ships.