Taiwan to strengthen defences as China tensions escalate

Taiwan to strengthen defences as China tensions escalate

President Tsai Ing-wen will promise to strengthen Taiwan’s defences and work more closely with regional partners on security in a major speech to mark the island’s national day on Saturday, as tensions with China escalate.

Self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, has come under increasing pressure from Beijing, which has stepped up air force activity near the island in the past few weeks including crossing the Taiwan Strait’s sensitive midline that normally serves as an unofficial buffer zone.

China says it is responding to “collusion” between Washington and Taipei, angered at the United States’ growing support for the island.

According to an outline of her speech, as described to Reuters by a source briefed on its contents, Tsai will say that only solid determination and strength can guarantee security and maintain regional peace.

Tsai, re-elected by a landslide in January on a promise to stand up to China, will emphasise military modernisation and the acceleration of “asymmetric warfare” capabilities, which refers to making any Chinese attack difficult and costly, for example with smart mines and portable missiles.

The US, which, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with Taipei though it is its strongest global backer, has been pushing Taiwan to modernise its military so the country can become a “porcupine“, small but hard to attack.

Tsai has sought to work more closely with like-minded democracies, and she will say that Taiwan will “strengthen its security partnership role with surrounding countries” while protecting its democracy and sovereignty.

Taiwan will also “proactively participate” in the building of a future new international and regional order, she will say.

On relations with China, Tsai will say that Taiwan will stick to its principles and is “determined” to ensure stability, but that this is the responsibility of both parties.