While Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and others in her administration have repeatedly stated that while they want peace, they would defend themselves if attacked, given the many scenarios, the details of what Taiwan would consider an attack remained unclear warrants a reaction, generally unsaid.
Chinese military action may not be as simple as a full frontal attack on Taiwan: it could include actions like a blockade to try to force Taiwan to accept China’s rule, strategists say.
Tensions between Beijing, which regards Taiwan as its own territory, and Taipei have increased since US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the island in early August.
To show its anger, China held military drills around Taiwan that included firing rockets and moves to establish a blockade. Since then, China has continued its military activities, albeit on a smaller scale.
That has drawn attention in Taiwan and the capitals of friendly countries like the United States and Japan to how a conflict with China might play out and how Taiwan and its allies might respond.
The senior Taiwan security official said on condition of anonymity China’s drills after Pelosi’s visit showed what could happen if the worst happened and focused on how Taiwan would respond.
“A blockade is an act of war; capturing an offshore island is an act of war,” the official said, adding that Taipei believes Beijing will not take any of these measures at the moment.
“Their sole purpose of conquering (offshore islands) is to force us to negotiate or surrender. But we will not surrender or negotiate.”
On the eve of an outright invasion, many military strategists and even Taiwan’s defense ministry have said that China may attempt to seize one of Taiwan’s offshore islands, such as the Kinmen and Matsu archipelagos, just off the coast of China.
“These are military actions. There is no room for ambiguity,” the official said.
China’s Bureau of Taiwan Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The official said Taipei is not ruling out the possibility of Beijing holding large-scale military exercises near Taiwan next year as the island prepares for presidential elections in early 2024.
“That’s what we’re worried about right now,” the official said, adding that other possible Chinese actions could include stepping up its “grey-zone” tactics near Taiwan, including militia boat raids or cyber-attacks.
The official said countries other than the United States, which has warships crossing the Taiwan Strait about once a month, should show Beijing that an attack on Taiwan would not go unanswered.
“Building deterrence is very important. Not only America, European countries and Japan should join the deterrent force.”
US President Joe Biden said in a commentary aired on Sunday that US forces would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, his clearest statement on the matter.
Since the world’s most advanced semiconductors are produced in Taiwan, it is in the world’s interest to ensure stability, the official said.
“The pressure in the Taiwan Strait is putting pressure on the chip supply.”
Tsai, who said Taiwan will not provoke China or “rush forward,” has made strengthening defense a priority, including a double-digit increase in defense spending next year.
While China has said it prefers peaceful “reunification” and has offered Taiwan a Hong Kong-style autonomy deal, it has never relinquished the use of force to seize control of the island.
Taiwan’s democratically elected government says only Taiwan’s people can decide its future.
(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)