War is not imminent, but as China has grown increasingly assertive in both the East China and South China Seas, Taiwan is stepping up its defense.
JIADONG, Taiwan (AP) — The F-16 screeched across the sky Wednesday before landing on a highway cut through pineapple fields in southwestern Taiwan to refuel quickly and take off again.
The Taiwanese military exercise envisioned a Chinese attack taking out the island’s main airfields, necessitating the use of rural roads as runways to carry on the fight.
War is not imminent, but as China has grown increasingly assertive in both the East China and South China Seas, Taiwan is stepping up its defense. Across the region, the United States and its allies are deepening military cooperation and strategizing over an effective response.
China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory, flies fighter jets toward Taiwan on a regular basis in an effort to warn and intimidate the island’s air force. Last month, Chinese fighter jets, anti-submarine aircraft and combat ships conducted joint assault drills near Taiwan with China saying the exercise was necessary to safeguard its sovereignty.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a meeting next week with key regional players that form the so-called “Quad” — India, Australia and Japan together with the U.S. — for in-person talks the White House said are meant to show the administration’s commitment to “promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian slammed the U.S. for “forming exclusive cliques” after the meeting was announced and countered that China was a “firm defender of regional peace and stability.”
“China’s development is a growing force for peace in the world and a boon to the prosperity and development of the region,” he said. “The countries concerned should abandon the outdated zero-sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical thinking.”
Japan, a U.S. ally that hosts the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, has long moved cautiously with regard to China, an important trading partner. But it has recently become less reserved in the face of Beijing’s growing military activity and broad territorial claims in the western Pacific, including to a group of islands near Taiwan that Japan controls.
Masahisa Sato, a senior lawmaker of the governing Liberal Democratic Party and an expert on defense, told a recent forum on security in Asia that right now the U.S.-Japan alliance is focused largely on a response to a possible conflict stemming from the Korean Peninsula, and it needs to be broadened to consider what to do if there is a Chinese attack on Taiwan.