Taiwan military is prepared for any Chinese attack, says defence minister

Lawrence Chung

A senior Taiwanese defence official said on Monday that the island’s military is well prepared in the event of any attack from Beijing during the Covid-19 outbreak.

“At the height of outbreak of the pandemic worldwide, if the Chinese Communists attempted to make any military adventure leading to regional conflict, they would be condemned by the world, and regardless of what would happen, we are all ready and have made the best preparation for this,” said Taiwan’s vice defence minister Chang Guan-chung.

He was speaking during a legislative session when lawmakers asked him how the defence ministry viewed recent activities by mainland China and the United States in and around the Taiwan Strait.

Last month three separate groups of People’s Liberation Army warplanes approached the island while taking part in long-distance training exercises in the western Pacific.

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This month another group of planes approached Taiwan in an exercise that analysts said was intended to show off their night navigation and all-weather capabilities.

Taiwan’s air force scrambled fighter jets to shadow, intercept and disperse the PLA warplanes through radio warnings during each approach by the mainland’s planes, according to the ministry.

Those actions also prompted the US to send two B-52 bombers on southbound flights off Taiwan’s east coast, while a transport plane flew over the Taiwan Strait, the military said.

The US Navy also announced on March 19 that it had carried out live-fire missile tests in the Philippine Sea, in what analysts said was a message that it was up to the challenge of the Chinese military’s new systems.

Vice defence minister Chang Guan-chung made the comments while being questioned by legislators. Photo: Taiwan Parliamentary TV

Wang Ting-yu, a legislator with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, said the PLA’s recent activities in the Taiwan Strait could threaten peace and stability in the region.

In response, Chang said the military always closely monitored the PLA’s activities and the situation in the region with the aid of intelligence obtained by the military and through cooperation with other governments. “The public can rest assured of our ability to uphold national security,” he stressed.

Major general Chen Kuo-hua told the same legislature session that the PLA’s activities in the region were routine exercises and the number of warplanes dispatched by the PLA for drills in the South China Sea “still falls within the normal realm”.

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Chang’s comments came two days after Beijing condemned US President Donald Trump for signing into law an act designed to bolster Taiwan’s diplomatic standing.

“China expresses its strong indignation and firmly opposes the bill,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday.

The legislation, he said, “blatantly obstructs other sovereignties from developing legitimate diplomatic relations with China, which is an act of hegemony” adding that it also “seriously violated the one-China principle … [and] brutally interferes in Chinese domestic affairs”.

Trump signed the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (Taipei) Act on Thursday, just hours before speaking to Chinese President Xi Jinping over the telephone to discuss how the two countries could work together to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

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