TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan’s defense minister on Wednesday said the island will respond to incursions into its airspace by Chinese warplanes and drones, but gave no details on specific actions.
Responding to questions from legislators, Chiu Kuo-cheng said China’s newly aggressive stance had changed what Taiwan would define as a “first strike” that would necessitate a response.
China stepped up its military exercises, fired missiles into waters near Taiwan and sent warplanes across the dividing line in the Taiwan Strait in response to an August visit to the island by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking American official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
China denies the existence of the median line in the Taiwan Strait and challenged established norms by firing missiles over Taiwan into Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
“We initially said we do not make the first strike … if they haven’t done the first strike, which means firing a projectile or a missile,” Chiu said. “But the situation has obviously changed.”
Asked by legislator Lo Chih-cheng of the governing Democratic Progressive Party if an incursion into Taiwanese airspace by a Chinese warplane would count as a first strike, Chiu responded in the affirmative.
Taiwan has thus far responded to Chinese incursions into its air defense identification zone by issuing warnings, scrambling jets and activating anti-air missile defenses.
The growing frequency of such incursions has spurred a push in Taiwan to optimize its geographical advantages in resisting a much more powerful foe through asymmetrical warfare, such as the use of mobile weapons systems suited to repelling an invasion force.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also brought a new focus on China’s vow to bring Taiwan under its control, by force if necessary.
The vast majority of Taiwanese reject the idea of coming under control of China’s authoritarian one-party Communist system. Russia’s failure to achieve its military goals in Ukraine has been a shot in the arm for those advocating for Taiwan’s counteroffensive against China’s attempts at diplomatic, cultural and economic isolation.
A former Japanese colony, Taiwan separated from mainland China in 1949 as Mao Zedong’s Communists forced Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists to relocate across the 180-kilometer (110-mile) -wide Taiwan Strait. China has never renounced its threat to invade and cut off all ties with Taiwan’s government following the election of pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen in 2016.
Also Wednesday, Deputy Economics Minister Chen Chern-chyi said the government was prepared to ensure adequate supplies of food, energy and other critical goods, including those crucial for the high-tech manufacturing industry, in the event of Chinese aggression.
China’s military drills in August were largely seen as a rehearsal for a potential blockade of the island, a move that would spark a global financial crisis and by law trigger a response from the U.S., Taiwan’s chief ally.
“We have a system. We do inventory every month,” Chen told lawmakers. “We will insure we have a certain period of stockpile in Taiwan, including food, including critical supply, minerals, chemicals and energy of course.”
Chen also said Taiwan was firm in safeguarding trade secrets and key national technologies and ensuring its top scientific talent is not poached by China. Export controls are in place to ensure Taiwanese products cannot be used in the Chinese military, he said, adding those measures were being constantly updated in consultation with allied nations and any loopholes were swiftly plugged.
“Those measures, we will implement very firmly,” Chen said.