• Says, ‘We’ve confidence in our allies’
• Warns aggressors of dire consequences
By Emma Emeozor
Expectedly, the Russia-Ukraine war has heightened global concerns over the tense relations between the Peoples Republic of China and Republic of China (Taiwan). Beijing has unequivocally said that it is committed to “smashing plots for Taiwan independence.” But Taipei has remained resolute, warning of dare consequences if Beijing carries out its threat. Since the visit of former United States’ House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan in August 2022, Beijing has upped its military drills around Taiwan as a clear message of its preparedness to use force to bring Taipei to its knees. Already, there is speculation that it may launch full attack on Taiwan in 2027.
Despite Beijing’s warning to foreign governments not to have dealings with Taipei, the Island has continued to expand its international sphere of influence, hosting Very Important Persons (VIP) from both the public and private sectors of foreign nations and signing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on various sectors of socio-economic development.
Recently, it signed MoU with Canada on health. Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss is among the latest world leaders who visited Taiwan recently. Ahead of her visit, Truss said: “Taiwan is a beacon of freedom and democracy. I’m looking forward to showing solidarity with the Taiwanese people in person in the face of increasing aggressive behaviour and rhetoric from the regime in Beijing.”
But how is Taiwan reacting to the situation. This was the issue Foreign Minister Jaushieh Joseph Wu and his deputy Ambassador Tie, Chung-Kwang addressed when they met separately with international journalists in Taipei recently.
Taiwan not ready for war but . . .
Asked if Taipei was ready for war, Wu cautioned against any act that could threaten peace in the region as “the impact of war will be on the whole world because of the importance of the Cross-Strait. Taiwan is not in a good position to prevent war from happening.” He was however quick to say “Taiwan’s policy will remain steady, to continue to promote peace and not to provoke confrontation.”
This is not to say that Taiwan will not secure its territory if invaded by China. Wu did not mince words when he said, “But we need to beef up our security, train our soldiers and improve our relations with major democracies across the world” He was emphatic on the disastrous impact an invasion or military attack on Taiwan will have on the global economy as the Cross-Strait will affected.
Taiwan confident in foreign allies
The Foreign Minister dismissed the thinking in some quarters that Taipei was afraid of being abandoned by its foreign allies in the event of any external attack. “Taiwan has continued to receive support from friendly nations, we are not afraid of being abandoned, the minister assured.
Responding to a question on those who support Taiwan for the purpose of boosting their pecuniary interest, Wu said: “If you look at major decision-makers in Europe, the parliaments in Europe, what they are saying is that they support Taiwan and will continue to oppose authoritarianism in the region. Their support for Taiwan is the same like that of Ukraine, it is genuine.
“We have got support from the United Kingdom in the past few years, it has been vocal, it is a member of the G7 and has shown high level interest in working with other nations that are supporting us.
“UK has engaged us in discussions, it is in the forefront in the drive to raise international awareness on Taiwan. Its delegates are visiting Taiwan. The support we want from the United States and other democracies is to assist us with the supply of military equipments.
“On the type of support Taiwan wants from small nations, let me say there are such nations like St Kitts and Nevis that have been supporting us through Parliamentary Resolutions and have been vocal in calling for Taiwan’s inclusion in international organisations.
“And we are equally giving such friendly countries support in the areas of scholarships, e-learning and job training opportunities. It must, also, be noted that the Baltic States, East European countries have witnessed communism and therefore they know the extent of the danger within. But even then, we are not asking any country to fight for us, we are determined to fight for ourselves, we are determined to defend our sovereignty.”
We are on our toes 24/7
Wu was confident when he said Taiwan has nothing to fear about possible military attack by China because “we are making serious preparation, increasing our military budget to equal our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In addition to conscription and establishment of a strong civil defence structure, we have in place the professional soldiers. We have discussed with the United States for military support by way of training our men.
“The question as to whether our youth are ready to fight does not arise because the experience of Ukraine, following the attack on it by Russia, has opened their eyes to see the reality on ground. We (all) have realised that this could also happen to Taiwan and therefore everybody is determined to defend this country. We recognise that proper training could increase the determination of our young people and this is an ongoing exercise.”
Wu further explained what he meant when he said Taiwan was not asking other countries to defend it. “I need to stress the determination of Taiwan to defend itself If we do not have the determination to defend ourselves, then we do not have the right to ask other countries to assist to defend us. We are training our military just as we are calling on other countries to give us moral support which is critical to us should there be attack on us by China. So, we are doing more investment on security because we want to deal with any level of aggression by China”
Taiwan eyes NATO for support if . . .
Wu did not hesitate to say his country will welcome the support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). He strongly believes that NATO’s intervention can halt any attack that could impact negatively on the Cross-Straits.
He said: “NATO members are supporting Ukraine. NATO is working in the Indo-Pacific region and this is a signal to China that any form of aggression toward any democracy will not be accepted. NATO believes that if it can defeat Russia in Ukraine, it will send the right signal to China. Growing democracies understand the value of Taiwan’s support or assistance to needy countries.”
The minister said Taiwan was aware of the pressure China is putting on countries like Germany, noting that “China is very good in weaponising trade and international relations. Taiwan doesn’t feel alone. Look at the rising tension between China and European nations. Germany along with other European Union (EU) members has been discussing issues of economic incursion by China.
“China also depends on Germany and EU for technology and science, so, it is not only Germany that is depending on China’s market. So, Taiwan doesn’t feel alone and it will not bow to China’s pressure. Rather, we are determined to fight against China’s vicious or malicious aggression.”
Taiwan open to dialogue
Even as Wu explains the preparedness of Taiwan to respond to China’s attack, he said Taipei is open to dialogue provided the talks are from preconditions. “China’s ‘One Country, Two System’ is a trap to make Taiwan to surrender to it. President Tsai Ing-wen has been successful in winning support of the international community for Taipei’s peace policy. It depends on China, if it wants to have peaceful dialogue with Taiwan
Wu is not alone
Taiwan’s officials are united on the territories resolve to be a sovereign nation. Fellow ministers and top ranking heads of departments are quick to affirm that Taiwan will defend itself if attacked by China.
In his meeting with international journalists, Deputy Foreign Minister, Ambassador Tien, Chung-Kwang corroborated Wu’s position on the consequences of China attacking Taiwan.
While boosting of Taiwan’s resilience and robust democracy, Chun-Kwang who is also the Chancellor of the Institute of Diplomacy and International Affairs, warned that it will be a worse scenario if China mounts blockade against Taiwan. “If it happens, it will not be the failure of Taiwan alone, it will be the failure of the international community. We expect the international community not to allow it to happen.”
He was particular about the economic importance of the Cross-Strait to Taiwan, the region and the international community at large. “Taiwan Cross-Strait is not yet international water, but there is international interest.
“We are not asking other countries to come to defend Taiwan militarily, they have to be here to protect their right to navigation. If China blockade happens, it will be a call for war, it will cause a global repercussion. We expect international outcry and international sanctions on China. The most acceptable action is to persuade China not to dare it.”
The mood of the people
Chun-Kwang wants the position of Taiwan to be understood. “We are preparing for any eventuality but this is not to say that we are calling for war. We will not provoke crisis that could lead to war, rather, Taiwan wants to be a responsible stakeholder in the international community.
“This is the reason we felt the need to assist other countries. Taiwan has a big heart.”
In her remark, Vice President, Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, Ketty W. Chen further explained the mood in the streets of Taiwan. She said: “It is on the back of the people that there could be war if China blocks the Cross-Strait. There have been increased debates among the young people on what Taiwan’s political leaders are doing. We have been monitoring the debates, civil society groups have been offering classes to the youth under the age of 29 on the situation. The young people want to know what action should be taking if they find strange people with weapons in the streets of Taiwan.”