Chinese Media: ‘Taiwan Will Be the First to Flinch’ in War

An anti-submarine rocket (ASROC) is fired from a Knox-class frigate during a military drill at sea near eastern Hualien on May 22, 2019. (Photo by HSU Tsun-hsu / AFP) (Photo credit should read HSU TSUN-HSU/AFP/Getty Images)
HSU TSUN-HSU/AFP/Getty

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper threatened a swift war with Taiwan in response to the island nation’s inking a $2.2 billion arms deal with America, warning Tuesday “a price must be paid” if the two countries “step out of line.”

The propaganda newspaper’s tirade followed an outraged statement from Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang claiming that the arms sale “severely violate international law” because Taiwan is not a sovereign country and treating it as such violates the Chinese Communist regime’s rights.

China considers Taiwan a rogue province, despite functioning for decades as a fully independent, sovereign democratic state. The United States technically does not recognize Taiwan as a country because China makes denying Taiwan’s sovereignty — what it calls the “One China” policy — a prerequisite for any diplomatic ties with Beijing. Under President Donald Trump, Washington has made moves to bring America closer to Taiwan, including holding a telephone conversation with President Tsai Ing-wen while president-elect that outraged the Chinese communists.

The arms sale is the latest move to embolden China’s enemies abroad. According to Focus Taiwan, the deal includes “108 M1A2T Abrams Tanks and relevant equipment and support, 250 Block I-92F MANPAD Stinger missiles, and four Block I-92 MANPAD Stinger Fly-to-Buy missiles and relevant equipment.” The outlet describes the sale as “by far the most substantive” of the Trump era, although it did not contain fighter jets Taipei had formally requested to buy to protect its South China Sea assets.

Focus Taiwan notes that Washington had previously sold Taiwan “training and maintenance/logistics support, along with torpedoes, anti-radiation missiles, and missile components.”
The Global Times expressed alarm over the size of the sale, noting that it represented “an upward trend” China wishes to reverse.

“The Chinese mainland must depend on itself to resolve the issue of US arms sales to Taiwan. The Chinese mainland’s military power is getting strong enough to make Taiwan’s newly purchased weapons of no military significance,” the Times contended. “The island’s meager military spending is no longer capable of providing a military balance across the Straits.”

The newspaper warned China’s military strength could be used to “suppress external arms sales” in the future. It then went on to claim that a military “liberation” of Taiwan from its sovereign freedom would take little effort on the part of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

“The US and Taiwan must not step out of line; otherwise, a price must be paid,” the Global Times warned. “We might as well make a bold assumption. If an arms sale between the US and Taiwan is not acceptable to the Chinese mainland, if the latter announces it would resolutely destroy the equipment once they are placed on the island, what would happen?”

“It is without question that Taiwan will be the first to flinch, because even if the Chinese mainland and the US can withstand a clash in the Straits, Taiwan will find it unbearable,” the publication concludes.

In another column on Tuesday, the Times takes a less aggressive approach, instead lamenting that China and America are living a “sensitive time” and Washington is, in its estimation, needlessly jeopardizing a delicate relationship.

“Even if the island acquires US weapons, the Chinese mainland still has an overwhelming advantage over the island in military strength, and Taiwan secessionists should not expect US protection in case of a military conflict,” the Communist publication claimed, citing “experts.”
“If the US continuously sells weapons to the Taiwan region, it would wrongly encourage Taiwan secessionists to further misjudge the situation and may eventually lead to military confrontations. This will hurt everyone’s interests,” the newspaper quotes a Chinese professor as saying.

The Global Times has echoed remarks from the Foreign Ministry urging the United States to disregard Taiwan’s sovereignty.

“The U.S. arms sales to Taiwan severely violate international law, the basic norms governing international relations, the one-China principle and the three China-U.S. joint communiques,” spokesperson Geng Shuang said on Tuesday. “It grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs and undermines China’s sovereignty and security interests.”

“China urges the United States to honor its commitment to the one-China principle and the three China-U.S. joint communiques, immediately withdraw the aforementioned planned arms sales to and sever military ties with Taiwan to avoid further damage to bilateral relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait,” he urged.

Geng did not specify how America making a business deal between its military and that of a foreign country violates international law save to deny that Taiwan is a country.

Taiwan’s government thanked the Trump administration for going ahead with the deal despite Chinese pressure.

“The U.S. government has announced a new batch of military gear sales to Taiwan, and in the moment of the 40th anniversary of the #Taiwan relationship law legislation, the U.S. government has continued to fulfill its commitment with concrete actions to help Taiwan strengthen its self-defense power, and I would like to express my gratitude,” Tsai wrote on Facebook this week. “As a responsible member of the Indian Pacific Region, Taiwan is fully determined to defend its hard-earned democracy and freedom, and also to defend security and stability in the region.”

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Tsai is scheduled to visit the United States on her way to the Caribbean this week, expected to make stops in New York and Denver before flying to Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia. Most of the nation’s that formally recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty are in the Western Hemisphere, where China has attempted to invest millions to persuade local governments to abandon ties to Taiwan.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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