China menace: Risks at ‘all-time high’ with Taiwan invasion ‘only a matter time’- expert

Taiwan: Foreign Minister warns of 'military assault' from China

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The document was published on Wednesday by the China Cross-Strait Academy, a Hong Kong-based think tank led by Lei Xiying, a committee member of the Communist Party-backed All-China Youth Federation. Using several factors including military strength, trade relations, public opinion, political events and support from allies, its stark conclusion is that the two sides are “on the brink of war”, with the risk put at 7.21 for 2021, on a scale of minus 10 to 10.

Using the same criteria, researchers concluded that in the 1950s, when the anti-communist nationalist forces fled from the mainland to Taiwan, the index was lower, at 6.7.

The figure fell in the 1990s, but began increasing after the turn of the Millennium, when the Democratic Progressive Party took power, replacing the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang, which had ruled for 55 years.

Lei characterised the shift in relations between Taiwan and Beijing, and Washington’s increasing engagement with the autonomous island, which China nevertheless regards as part of its territory, as “destructive factors” increasing the risk of conflict.

He warned: “If the current trend continues Beijing’s unification of Taiwan by force will only be a matter of time.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Lim John Chuan-tiong, a former researcher at Taiwan’s Academia Sinica, stopped short of describing tensions as being worse than in the 1950s.

However, he added: “But considering the explosive situation now, huge uncertainties and the stakes involved if anyone makes a wrong judgment or a wrong move, it is not wrong to say that the risk level across the Taiwan Strait is at an unprecedented high level.

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“Beijing used to believe that as long as Sino-US relations are under control, Taiwan will not be a problem.

“But Sino-US relations took a nosedive under Trump and there are no signs of improvement now with the Joe Biden administration, which is relying more on allies like Taiwan to contain China.”

In a clear illustration of the ongoing tensions in the region, on Wednesday China accused the United States of threatening the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait after a US warship again sailed through the sensitive waterway which separates Taiwan from its giant neighbour.

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The US Navy’s 7th Fleet said the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur conducted a “routine Taiwan Strait transit” on Tuesday in accordance with international law.

A spokesman insisted: “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“The United States military will continue to fly, sail, and operate anywhere international law allows.”

However, a spokesman for China’s Eastern Theatre Command said: “The US actions sends the wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces, deliberately disrupting the regional situation and endangering peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

Chinese forces had tracked and monitored the ship throughout its voyage, he added.

China believes Taiwan’s democratically elected government is pushing for a formal declaration of independence for the island, a red line for Beijing which experts predict would trigger a full-scale invasion.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says they are already an independent state called the Republic of China, its formal name.

Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said the U.S. ship had sailed in a southerly direction through the strait and the “situation was as normal”.

The US Navy has been conducting such operations every month or so.

The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan but is its most important international backer and a major seller of arms.

Military tension between Taiwan and Beijing have spiked over the past year, with Taipei complaining of China repeatedly sending its air force into Taiwan’s air defence zone.

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