China will be ready to mount a full-scale invasion of Taiwan by 2025, the island’s defence minister has said in the starkest warning yet of all-out war with Beijing.
Chiu Kuo-cheng, giving a speech to parliament today defending $8.6billion in new military spending, said Beijing ‘has the capacity’ to attack immediately – but is looking to reduce the costs it must bear before giving the order.
‘By 2025, China will bring the cost and attrition to its lowest [point],’ he said, adding that the current standoff is ‘the most serious’ he has seen in 40 years with the risk of a ‘misfire’ in the Taiwan Strait now very high.
The dire warning came as Joe Biden sought to reassure a nervous public – saying that he has spoken with Xi Jinping and the pair have ‘agreed to abide by the Taiwan agreement’ – though the call itself appears to be a month old and it was not immediately clear what agreement he was referring to.
Since the call, China has dramatically stepped up its military operations around the island – flying 150 aircraft close-by at the weekend in a huge show of force coinciding with its National Day holiday.
At the same time, Beijing’s mouthpiece media has been warning that it is ‘only a matter of time’ before the island falls into their hands and that World War Three could be triggered ‘at any time’.
Beijing’s sabre-rattling has not gone unanswered, with Britain’s HMS Queen Elizabeth leading a huge naval exercise in the Philippine Sea at the weekend alongside US and Japanese aircraft carriers.
Taiwan has warned that China will be ready for a full-scale invasion of the island by 2025, ramping up tensions further after the UK’s Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier led a huge naval exercise alongside the US and Japan in the region at the weekend
HMS Queen Elizabeth (far left) led Japan’s JS ISE (second left) and US aircraft carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Ronald Reagan (third left) at the head of a joint strike group that included a dozen other warships and support vessels
It seems Biden was talking about the Taiwan Relations Act, under which America agreed to the establishment of diplomatic ties with Beijing under the condition that the future of Taiwan be decided peacefully.
The act also commits the US to provide Taiwan with weapons to defend itself, in exchange for Washington taking no position on the island’s sovereignty and recognising that the island belongs to Beijing as part of ‘one China’.
Biden’s last on-the-record call with Xi was on September 9. The White House had not previously disclosed that Taiwan formed part of their talks.
Meanwhile a group of French senators are also visiting the self-governing island today in a further show of support for its democratic leaders, and despite pressure from Beijing to call off the visit.
The group, led by senator Alain Richard, will meet with President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwanese economic and health officials and the Mainland Affairs Council.
Richard, a former French defense minister, previously visited Taiwan in 2015 and 2018, according to Taiwan’s semi-official Central News Agency, and heads the Taiwan Friendship group in the French senate.
The visit comes despite French anger at a new alliance signed between Australia, the UK, and US to provide the former with its first nuclear submarines – which saw an earlier pact between Canberra and Paris dramatically torn up.
Leaders insist the new alliance – dubbed AUKUS – is not aimed at any country, but few observers doubt it is designed as a counter-balance to Chinese power in the South China Sea, where Taiwan is located.
Taiwan is ruled by the Republic of China, a group which previously controlled the country and fought against the Communist Party when it first emerged during China’s civil war.
The Republic of China views itself as an autonomous country, while China sees it as a breakaway province.
America had backed the government in Taipei as China’s legitimate rulers until 1979, when Jimmy Carter announced that he would recognise the Communist government in Beijing and establish diplomatic relations.
The Taiwan Relations Act was passed in response, granting the island near-nation status and mandating that the US continue to sell weapons to its government.
Long-standing tensions between Taiwan and the mainland have been growing since 2019, when President Xi gave a speech committing himself to the ‘reunification’ of the island with China – saying he will use force if he deems it necessary.
The US has a long-standing policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’ towards the island’s defence, refusing to say what it would do if a foreign force attacks.
Biden recently suggested that he would be willing to go to war if China invaded, though aides insisted that he had misspoken.
Nearly 150 Chinese warplanes have breached Taiwan’s airspace since Friday, including 52 aircraft that flew in a single sortie on Monday (pictured) in Beijing’s largest show-of-force yet
A Taiwan flag is carried across the sky on Tuesday during a national day rehearsal in Taipei, Taiwan,
Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday vowed to ‘do whatever it takes’ to guard Taiwan against invasion as she indicated that without help from the country’s allies ‘authoritarianism has the upper hand over democracy.’
Tsai added: ‘[Democratic nations] should remember that if Taiwan were to fall, the consequences would be catastrophic for regional peace and the democratic system.
‘It would signal that in today’s global contest of values, authoritarianism has the upper hand over democracy.’
Taiwan hopes for peaceful coexistence with China, she said, but ‘if its democracy and way of life are threatened, Taiwan will do whatever it takes to defend itself.’
Tsai’s government on Monday urged Beijing to stop ‘irresponsible provocative actions’ after the warplanes breached Taiwan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ).
‘Amid almost daily intrusions by the People’s Liberation Army, our position on cross-strait relations remains constant: Taiwan will not bend to pressure,’ Tsai added.
The ADIZ is not the same as Taiwan’s territorial airspace but includes a far greater area that overlaps with part of China’s own air defence identification zone and even includes some of the mainland.
Chinese state media on Monday accompanied the military incursion with threats to Taiwan.
Global Times editor Hu Xijin tweeted that it is ‘only a matter of time before Taiwan’s separatist authorities fall’ – describing the weekend’s show-of-force as a ‘military parade’ to mark China’s National Day on October 1.
An editorial in the same newspaper then added that – unlike the ‘guard of honour’ in traditional parades – the planes flown towards Taiwan at the weekend ‘are fighting forces aimed at actual combat’.
‘The increase in the number of aircraft showed the PLA Air Force’s operational capabilities,’ the newspaper said, adding: ‘It is a clear and unmistakable declaration of China’s sovereignty over the island.’
Chiu Kuo-cheng, Taiwan’s defence minister, said Beijing ‘has the capacity’ to attack the island now but is working to reduce the losses it will suffer as a result – with the ‘low point’ being reached within the next four years
The operations are designed to familiarise pilots with ‘battlefield conditions’ so that ‘once the order to attack is given’ they will be able to fight like ‘experienced veterans’, the editorial concluded.
‘There is no doubt about the future of the situation across the Taiwan Straits.
‘The initiative of when and how to solve the Taiwan question is firmly in the hands of the Chinese mainland.’
China has flown near-daily missions into Taiwan’s airspace since the start of the year, the island’s government has said, though most comprise only one aircraft.
But that changed dramatically at the weekend, with 38 planes flown into the ‘air defence identification zone’ on Friday.
The planes flew in two separate sorties, the first of which comprised 25 aircraft and flew during the day followed by 19 aircraft which flew at night.
On Saturday, another 39 aircraft flew in two separate sorties – one of 20 aircraft during the day and another of 19 aircraft at night.
Sunday saw an additional 16 planes fly close to the island in a single incursion.
Then, on Monday, 52 planes entered the zone in the single-biggest mission to date – before another six arrived later.
Flight tracking data published by Taiwan shows the largest mission involved a total of 36 fighter jets – 34 J-16s and two Russian-made Su-30s.
They were accompanying 12 H-6 nuclear capable bombers, two Y-8 anti-submarine warfare aircraft, and two KJ-500 early warning and control planes.
All flew a short distance into the ADIZ between Taiwan’s mainland and the Taiwan-controlled Pratas Island.
Taiwan’s ADIZ is a zone in which it requires all foreign aircraft to identify themselves and state their intentions. It is different to the island’s sovereign airspace, which extends over a smaller area 12 nautical miles from its coast.
Taipei said it scrambled fighters, broadcast radio warnings and activated missile defences in response. A short time later, the Chinese aircraft turned back.
China’s sorties near Taiwan have included nuclear-capable H-6 bombers (pictured) along with fighters and recon planes