With the election of their new president, Taiwan has once again renewed concerns that the tensions across the strait with China could escalate. There were some assurances from the newly elected leader shortly after the votes were counted which indicated that she might soften her approach a bit, pushing for the independent nature of the island as a self-governing entity, but not to the point of desiring a war which would likely be catastrophic and inflame the entire region. With all that as a backdrop, I’m not sure how much this is going to help. (Yahoo News)
Taiwan carried out military drills Wednesday with naval chiefs assuring residents the island is safe, as concerns grow that tensions will escalate with China after recent presidential elections.
The drills were the first since Tsai Ing-wen of the China-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) swept to victory in the elections earlier this month.
She ousted the ruling Beijing-friendly Kuomintang (KMT), bringing to an end eight years of unprecedented rapprochement with China.
On Wednesday, the Taiwanese navy displayed eight warships and fired flares from a missile corvette during an exercise in waters off Tsoying in southern Taiwan, home to the island’s naval headquarters.
The new president isn’t even in office yet, so you can’t pin it on her, but this exercise wasn’t just sailing a few ships in formation around the island. They were doing missile firing tests and landing frogmen on Kinmen Island, which is all of five miles off the coast of mainland China. They also scrambled some of the F-16s we were nice enough to sell them for some aerial exercises. While Taiwan generally conducts exercises this time of the year and the new president isn’t giving the orders yet, it’s rather hard to not see this as a somewhat provocative move as viewed by the Chinese, particularly coming right on the heels of the election.
Add to that another item which is sure to stir the pot a bit. Outgoing President Ma Ying-jeou, who is much friendlier with China, has scheduled a visit to another disputed Island in the South China Sea. That brought an immediate, if not terribly stern condemnation from the United States. (Reuters)
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou’s planned trip to the Taiwanese-held island of Itu Aba in the disputed South China Sea is “extremely unhelpful” and won’t do anything to resolve disputes over the waterway, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.
Ma’s office earlier announced that the president, who steps down in May, would fly to Itu Aba on Thursday to offer Chinese New Year wishes to residents on the island, mainly Taiwanese coastguard personnel and environmental scholars.
It’s hard to knock Taiwan too much for standing their ground, but with everything else going on in the world right now this is just one more headache that we really don’t need. And I say we because you just know that the United States inevitably gets dragged into these dust ups whenever they happen.