Taiwan’s foreign minister says the island is gearing up for what he calls a “real threat” from China.
Joseph Wu also said that “lessons could be learned” by both Taiwan and China from the still unfolding Ukraine conflict.
Speaking from Taipei, Wu said, “It is hard for most to understand the decision making within China but the current threat is real.”
Taiwan, he noted, has witnessed a gradual escalation in the military threat from its neighbour across the Taiwan Strait in recent weeks and months.
He told reporters this includes almost daily air incursions over the “median line” of the Taiwan Strait and disinformation campaigns.
But, he stressed, his country “will be ready” for any possible military invasion.
Taiwan, he said, has tripled the period of conscription (from four months to one year) and raised the defence budget to 2.5 per cent of GDP.
He said, “China poses a significant challenge and it is hard for us to figure out their exact intentions.”
Against a backdrop of worsening relations between the two sides of late, he also warned that any further escalation could spark “something quite major”.
The consequences of an invasion, he says, will be “even worse than what we have seen in Ukraine.”
“As long as this threat remains our hope is that the global community will continue to do what it is doing now in an effort to de-escalate things.”
The Minister went on, “It has taken Taiwan four decades to be where it is today. We are a responsible and democratic player in world affairs. We will remain sober-minded in an effort to stop a war from happening.”
The economic hit of any war, not just to Taiwan but the rest of the world, was also highlighted by the official, who recently took up his post.
The world relies on Taiwan for semi-conductors – the “backbone” of its economy – for devices like smartphone and computers and the supply chain could be very badly disrupted, he said, if there is a military conflict.
“Everyone will be affected,” he predicted.
“We have to be prepared as the threat is real and lessons can be learned from what has happened in Ukraine.”
One lesson,he argued, is the importance of gathering international support, just as he says Ukraine has done in its conflict with Russia.
Another lesson is a reliance on the “bravery” of the Ukrainian people, something he says would be replicated by Taiwanese in any direct conflict with Russia.
But he also believes China may have learned lessons itself such as the danger of getting bogged down in a long, drawn out war, a position Russia now finds itself in,he said.
He was also frank in admitting that Taiwan needs to be “better prepared” in case it is attacked by a force he freely concedes far outweighs the military strength of his country.
The former academic said, “That is why we are now trying to recruit more soldiers and also increased defence spending.”
Looking to the future, he noted, “Despite everything war is still not inevitable and we all have to do our utmost to stop it from happening.”