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Taiwan: Is China prepping for an armed conflict with US in Pacific?

A diplomatic tussle between China and the US over Taiwan have been escalating, and there are clear signals both sides preparing for something more serious – a possible armed conflict. Historical patterns suggest that nations that prepare for war are more likely to go to war, but a full-scale conflict between to superpower could turn catastrophic. Here is a deeper look at recent events that indicates towards the same. 

Taiwan on alert for potential “sudden entry” of Chinese PLA 

Earlier this week, Taiwan’s Defence Minister, Chiu Kuo-cheng, has warned that the island needs to be on alert for potential “sudden entry” by the Chinese military into areas close to its territory. Chiu suggested that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) might use any perceived increase in Taiwan’s military exchanges with the US as an excuse to enter areas close to Taiwan’s territorial air and sea space.

He said the PLA might make a “sudden entry” into Taiwan’s contiguous zone and get close to its territorial space, which the island defines as 12 nautical miles from its coast.

“(I) specifically make these comments this year, meaning they are making such preparations,” Chiu said. “Looking forward, they would use force if they really have to.”

In response, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a daily briefing that Beijing “will take firm measures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Taiwan President to meet U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen plans to stop off in Los Angeles and New York as part of a visit to Central America. Tsai is likely to meet U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the United States, according to sources, and McCarthy confirmed to U.S. media this week he would meet her this year.

“At present, various departments are communicating and preparing for relevant plans, and the planning of the related itinerary will be explained in a timely manner after the plan is finalised,” an official statement said, without elaborating.

Taiwan’s presidents, including Tsai, have a record of travelling through the U.S. en route to other countries, usually for a day or two, though the U.S. government has generally avoided meeting senior Taiwanese officials in Washington in the past.

Seriously concerned: China on Tsai Ing-wen’s US visit

China, meanwhile, cited that it was “seriously concerned” by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen’s “transit” plans and had asked Washington for clarification.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said “We have lodged solemn representations with the U.S. side and asked them to clarify.” 

China is firmly opposed to any form of official exchanges between the United States and Taiwan, she said, adding: “No one should underestimate the strong determination of the Chinese government and people to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

China’s Xi calls for ‘more quickly elevating’ armed forces

China’s leader Xi Jinping has called for “more quickly elevating the armed forces to world-class standards,” in a speech just days after a top diplomat warned of the growing possibility of conflict with the U.S. unless Washington changes course.

China must maximize its “national strategic capabilities” in a bid to “systematically upgrade the country’s overall strength to cope with strategic risks, safeguard strategic interests and realize strategic objectives,” Xi said Wednesday.

(With inputs from agencies)

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