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Taiwan: China military threat growing, U.S. strategy unclear

Reuters

Taiwan Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan, second left, attends a parliamentary session at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei on Thursday.

ReutersTAIPEI (Reuters) — China’s accelerated military development and recent activity by its military aircraft and ships around Taiwan pose an increased threat to the self-ruled island, according to a Taiwanese government defense report draft reviewed by Reuters.

The 2017 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) also highlights the uncertainty over the future strategic direction of the United States in the region, the impact of Japan flexing its military capabilities and “conflict crisis” potential in the disputed South China Sea.

“The recent activity of Chinese jets and ships around Taiwan shows the continued rise in [China’s] military threat capabilities,” highlighting the importance of Taiwan’s need to defend itself, the review will say.

“In addition to posing a military threat to our country, it also has a negative impact on regional stability.”

The document was due to be presented to parliament on Thursday by Taiwan Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan. The Defense Ministry had no comment on the report on Wednesday.

The four-yearly review is the first since President Tsai Ing-wen took office last May and the first under her Democratic Progressive Party, which traditionally advocates independence for Taiwan.

“The country’s military development and Taiwan’s freedom and prosperity are the same living body,” according to the draft.

‘Fraternal bond’

The QDR comes as China — which claims Taiwan as a wayward province to be taken back by force if necessary — has been stepping up air and sea military exercises in waters surrounding Taiwan as part of a sweeping modernization of its armed forces.

Speaking in Beijing at his annual news conference on Wednesday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang repeated that China was resolutely opposed to Taiwan independence but it would uphold peace across the Taiwan Strait.

“No matter how the situation on the island may evolve, the fraternal bond between the two sides cannot be severed and will not be able to change history or the fact that both sides belong to one and the same China,” Li said.

Developments in the South China Sea, including rejection of an international court ruling by other claimants on territorial rights of the Philippines in the disputed waters, China’s land reclamation and militarization, and freedom of navigation patrols championed by the United States, could deepen strife in the area, the review will say.

“Sovereignty disputes in the region and strategic competition could intensify, leading to hidden conflict crisis.”

Among security challenges for Taiwan, the review also said “the United States’ Asia-Pacific strategic direction and troop deployment was not clear” under the new administration of President Donald Trump.Speech

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