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Taiwan Activates Defenses Against China02/01 06:16


   TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) -- Taiwan scrambled fighter jets, put its navy on alert 
and activated missile systems in response to nearby operations by 34 Chinese 
military aircraft and nine warships that are part Beijing's strategy to 
unsettle and intimidate the self-governing island democracy.

   The large-scale Chinese deployment came as Beijing increases preparations 
for a potential blockade or military action against Taiwan that have stirred 
increasing concern among military leaders, diplomats and elected officials in 
the U.S., Taiwan's key ally.

   In a memo last month, U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan instructed officers 
to be prepared for a U.S. -China conflict over Taiwan in 2025. As head of the 
Air Mobility Command, Minihan has a keen understanding of the Chinese military 
and his personal remarks echo calls in the U.S. for heightened preparations.

   Taiwan's Defense Ministry said 20 Chinese aircraft on Tuesday crossed the 
central line in the Taiwan Strait that has long been an unofficial buffer zone 
between the sides, which separated during a civil war in 1949.

   China claims the island republic as its own territory, to be taken by force 
if necessary, while the vast majority of Taiwanese are opposed to coming under 
the control of China's authoritarian Communist Party.

   Taiwan's armed forces "monitored the situation ... to respond to these 
activities," the Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

   That announcement came as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned 
that China's growing assertiveness and collaboration with Russia pose a threat 
not only to Asia but also to Europe.

   On a visit to Japan on Wednesday, Stoltenberg said China is increasingly 
investing in nuclear weapons and long-range missiles without providing 
transparency or engaging in arms control talks. Stoltenberg earlier criticized 
China for "bullying its neighbors and threatening Taiwan" and stressed the need 
for Japan and other democracies to work together with the alliance to defend 
the international order.

   "NATO needs to make sure we have friends," he said, citing escalating 
Chinese attempts to coerce neighbors and threaten Taiwan. "It is important to 
work more closely with our partners in the Indo Pacific."

   China's Foreign Ministry responded by accusing NATO of exceeding its mandate 
and having "played up China's threats."

   "China is always a force for regional and global peace and stability," 
ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a regular briefing.

   "I would like to stress that the Asia-Pacific is not a battlefield for the 
geopolitical contest and does not welcome the Cold War mentality and bloc 
confrontation," Mao said.

   It wasn't clear what prompted the Chinese action in Taiwan, although it came 
just ahead of a visit to Beijing by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who 
would become the highest-ranking official to visit China since President Joe 
Biden's election in 2020.

   Beijing frequently seeks to flag Taiwan as the most serious issue in 
U.S.-China relations ahead of top-level discussions, leading then to 
discussions of other economic, trade and political issues where there is more 
room for meaningful exchanges.

   China has sent warships, bombers, fighter jets and support aircraft into 
airspace near Taiwan on a near-daily basis, hoping to wear down the island's 
limited defense resources and undercut support for pro-independence President 
Tsai Ing-wen.

   Chinese fighter jets have also confronted military aircraft from the U.S. 
and allied nations over international airspace in the South China and East 
China seas, in what Beijing has described as dangerous and threatening 

   A string of visits in recent months by foreign politicians to Taiwan, 
including by then-U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and numerous politicians from 
the European Union, spurred displays of military might from both sides.

   In response to Pelosi's visit in August, China staged war games surrounding 
the island and fired missiles over it into the Pacific Ocean.

   China has repeatedly threatened retaliation against countries seeking closer 
ties with Taiwan, but its attempts at intimidation have sparked a backlash in 
popular sentiment in Europe, Japan, the U.S. and other nations.

   Taiwan is set to hold presidential elections next year, in contrast to 
China's system of total control by President and party General Secretary Xi 
Jinping, who has removed term limits to effectively make him leader for life. 
China's efforts to reach out to Taiwan's pro-unification Nationalist Party have 
largely backfired.

   Although the Nationalists performed well in local elections last year, the 
party's pro-Beijing policies have failed to find resonance among voters on a 
national level.

   Taiwan has responded to China's threats by ordering more defensive weaponry 
from the U.S., leveraging its democracy and high-tech economy to strengthen 
foreign relations and revitalizing its domestic arms industry.

   Compulsory military service for men is being extended from four months to 
one year and public opinion surveys show high levels of support for increased 
defense spending to counter China's threats.

   In an interview last month, Taiwan's envoy to the U.S. said the island has 
learned important lessons from Russia's war in Ukraine that would help it deter 
any attack by China or defend itself if invaded.

   Taiwan's de facto ambassador in Washington, Bi-khim Hsiao, said there is a 
new emphasis on preparing military reservists and civilians for the kind of 
all-of-society fight that Ukrainians are waging against Russia.

   "Everything we're doing now is to prevent the pain and suffering of the 
tragedy of Ukraine from being repeated in our scenario in Taiwan," Hsiao told 
The Associated Press. "So ultimately, we seek to deter the use of military 
force. But in a worst-case scenario, we understand that we have to be better 

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