Taiwan says odds of war with China in next year 'very low'

Taiwan says it will defend its freedoms and democracy, blaming China for the tensions. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

TAIPEI (REUTERS) - The odds of war with China in the next year are "very low," a top Taiwanese security official told lawmakers on Wednesday (Oct 20), amid heightened tensions between Taipei and Beijing, which claims sovereignty over the island.

Taiwan has repeatedly said that it will defend itself if attacked, but wants to maintain the status quo with China even as it complains of repeated sorties by the Chinese air force in its air defence identification zone, or ADIZ.

"I think generally, within one year, the probability of war is very low," National Security Bureau Director-General Chen Ming-tong told a parliamentary defence committee meeting.

"But there are many things you still have to pay attention to, called contingent events."

Earlier this month, President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan would not be forced to bow to China, but reiterated a desire for peace and dialogue with Beijing.

Barring any "contingent events", Mr Chen said, "in the next one year, two years, or three years, during President Tsai's term, I think there won't be a problem." Ms Tsai began her second four-year term in May 2020.

Mr Chen cited the Covid-19 pandemic as an example of an unexpected event that has fundamentally changed society.

"Nobody expected that," he said.

Earlier this month China mounted five consecutive days of mass air force incursions into Taiwan's ADIZ, which covers a broader area than Taiwan's territorial air space. Taiwan monitors and patrols the ADIZ in order to give it more time to respond to any threats.

While China's aircraft did not enter Taiwan's airspace, flying primarily in the south-western corner of its ADIZ, Taiwan views the increased frequency of incursions as part of Beijing's intensifying military harassment.

China defended its military activities as "just" moves to protect peace and stability, blaming the tensions on Taiwan's "collusion" with foreign forces - a veiled reference to the United States.

Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said last week that Taiwan will not start a war with China but will "meet the enemy full on".

Military tensions with China are at their "most serious" in more than 40 years of his time with the army, Mr Chiu said earlier this month, adding China will be capable of mounting a "full scale" invasion by 2025.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province awaiting reunification with the mainland, by force if necessary. Taiwan says it will defend its freedoms and democracy, blaming China for the tensions.

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