The recent summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping represented “guardrails” for Taiwan but the threat of a Chinese military invasion remains, says Taiwan’s deputy foreign minister.
In an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, Roy Chun Lee said last week’s meeting between the two world leaders eased some of the “tensions” Taiwan has been under as China has become increasingly aggressive to the island nation.
But Lee said that China’s military presence – and its efforts to interfere in Taiwan’s affairs – remain a constant reality for the democratically governed island.
“If you are living in Taiwan, the reality is that every day you wake up … you’re logging onto the internet and you can check on the number of Chinese warplanes that have approached Taiwan in the last 24 hours,” Lee said. “Sometimes the number is five. Sometimes the number is 90.”
Lee was speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum, an annual conference bringing together military and political officials and civil society figures from democratic nations to discuss defence and national security issues.
While Taiwan maintains its independence and is self-governing, China considers Taiwan its own territory, and in recent years has increased both military and diplomatic pressure to “reunify” the democratic island under Beijing’s control. That includes increased tension in the Taiwan Strait.
In June, a rare Canada-U.S. sail-through of the strait drew the attention of a Chinese warship, which came within 150 yards of colliding with the American destroyer USS Chung-Hoon.
But China’s meddling with Taiwan does not stop at military intimidation, Lee said. Lee said Taiwan’s public sector was hit with more than 30 million cyber attacks per month last year, a number he called “extraordinary.”
“So it’s not only the warplanes, it’s not only the naval vessels, but also the cyber attacks and the disinformation,” Lee said. “Not to mention the election interference that Canadians are now so aware … (It’s) on a daily basis that we face interference from China.”
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Speaking to the forum Friday, Defence Minister Bill Blair said Canada needs to move from an “episodic” presence in the Pacific to a “reliable and persistent presence.”
That will be a challenge according to Gen. Wayne Eyre, Canada’s chief of defence staff.
“As we speak we’ve got three ships in the western Pacific on exercise … with Japan, with the U.S. Maintaining that presence, persistent presence, is going to be a challenge as we go forward, but one that we are committed to doing as we balance resources around the world,” Eyre told a crowd at the forum Saturday morning.
“To sustain it is going to be a challenge.”
While the meeting between Biden and Xi – and the two leaders’ agreement to try and restart military-to-military communications – might have been a hopeful sign for Taiwan, Lee’s optimism is muted.
“China is not there yet, but they are working towards that objective (of invasion). They are. And China’s calculation is based on also the uncertainty and the risks associated with a military attack, especially on their political authority in China,” Lee said.
“So they want to make sure that they have to win the war.”
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