Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Preparing for the Unknown: China’s Aggression Leads Japan and Taiwan To Take Precautions

Washington, DCCountries in Southeast Asia have started to prepare themselves as they watch China escalating its tactics in the Taiwan Strait. The neighboring countries have also felt the heat of China’s aggression. One such tactic is the escalating patrolling by Chinese ships in waters surrounding the uninhabited islands controlled by Japan, known as the Senkaku Islands. However, China and Taiwan have also laid claims to them. As a result, Japan has decided to increase its fortifications on the island closest to Taiwan, Yonaguni. The aggression around the Senkaku islands caught Japan’s defense minister’s attention in July 2021 when Minister Nobuo Kishi announced that they would be stationing six to eight F-35B stealth fighter jets at SDF’s Nyutabaru Air Base. Japan has reported upwards of 70 sightings of Chinese vessels in the last year, just outside its contiguous zone of 24 nautical miles. Reports suggest that in the previous decade, the number was 20 sightings. However, several Southeast Asian countries have observed increased aggressive behavior from China. As of 30th April 2022, the developments in the China-Japan dispute over the Diaoyu Islands had taken a turn for the worst when Chinese Embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu said that it did not matter what Japan did as the Diaoyu Islands belonged to China and that they were determined to safeguard the territorial sovereignty in Diaoyudao. However, Secretary-General of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies Think Tank, Andrew Yang, explained that this is a tactic to deter countries like Japan from challenging China in the western Pacific region.

The ripple effects of Chinese actions are felt the world over. Countries like India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Singapore are all increasing their military budgets and spending as a response to the aggression they have experienced from China. The Diaoyutai Islands are where the highest regional tensions are, and China has increased its military presence in the sea surrounding these islands that have now been disputed for over a century. Beijing issued a statement to CNN that they expressed their understanding of the situation to be appropriate and claimed that patrolling the waters around these islands was their sovereign right. In the face of escalating tensions, the island’s locals also fear disruption of their peaceful existence. They are especially concerned that their livelihoods will be taken away if China limits their access to fishing grounds around the islands. China’s bolstered presence in the sky has also raised concerns in Taiwan as China kept flying their warplanes into their air defense identification zone (ADIZ). 

China’s unwillingness to condemn the Ukraine invasion has put a lot of neighboring countries on high alert. China has long discouraged comparisons between Taiwan and Ukraine. However, they have called it their “internal matter,” which is equally worrisome. Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said that the island is keeping a keen eye on China’s actions as the events in Ukraine unfold. Although, the force with which western countries sanctioned Russia and supported Ukraine through various avenues has left Moscow and Beijing rattled, Xi Jinping has never shied away from talking about how he feels about Taiwan and the unification of China. However, many Western analysts feel that Russia’s failings may have implications for China, but the million-dollar question is, does Beijing think the same?

Even in the face of Moscow’s profound failures, Beijing continues to sing the same tone. The fact is that China is much more powerful than Taiwan. Their chances of overtaking Taiwan are much better than Russia taking over Ukraine. However, it may not be as simple as we assume. The risks of involving the US in conflict are much higher with Taiwan, which is why they have resorted to intimidation and pressure. They are also utilizing Russia and Ukraine’s example to threaten the Taiwanese public into submission, showcasing the devastating realities of war should Taiwan disobey.

As a result, the people of Taiwan have developed goals for civilian preparedness since the invasion of Ukraine. Taiwanese locals, such as a non-governmental organization named Forward Alliance, are conducting workshops to teach and empower people to be able to help within their communities, and survive in warfare while waiting for government resources. It’s a local effort to protect the Taiwanese people from an uncertain future. Even though a peaceful resolution is not yet off the table, recent escalations in Chinese military aggression and the invasion of Ukraine have left the Taiwanese people wanting to be prepared for the unknown.

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