CHINA ON WEDNESDAY levied new threats at Taiwan and appears poised to escalate its military efforts to bring to heel what it considers a renegade province, following an attempt by the island nation’s opposition party to bring it into closer cooperation with the U.S.
Beijing was already angered by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s ongoing tour through Asia to shore up support for containing China before the Taiwanese Kuomintang Party, or KMT, on Tuesday launched a new effort for the government there to reestablish diplomatic ties with the U.S.
“The only way forward is for the mainland to fully prepare itself for war and to give Taiwan secessionist forces a decisive punishment at any time,” Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Chinese state-sponsored Global Times, wrote in a column Wednesday morning. “As the secessionist forces’ arrogance continues to swell, the historical turning point is getting closer.”
“The more trouble Taiwan creates, the sooner the mainland will decide to teach Taiwan independence forces a hard lesson,” Hu wrote.
The outlet is not a direct mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party but is aligned with its views.
Only a dwindling number of small countries have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan since the U.S. chose in 1979 to recognize only the government in Beijing – one of a series of conditions China insisted upon before entering the global economy and one that it now considers non-negotiable.
Local analysts consider the KMT move to be impractical and unrealistic, or even “insane,” and all but torpedo any place for the traditionalist party in future negotiations with Beijing – a punitive measure for which Hu advocated in his column. It also exceeds any proposal put forth so far by the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, led by Taiwanese President Tsai In-Wen.
However, the Trump administration’s focus on blaming China for the region’s woes and the global spread of the coronavirus has opened up previously unthinkable possibilities for cooperation between Washington and Taipei.
The idea Pompeo may have visited Taiwan occupied a central focus of a series of press briefings leading up to his trip to Japan earlier this week. There he also met with delegates from India and Australia, the other members of the increasingly consequential regional partnership known as the “Quad,” which the White House reportedly seeks to turn into an Asian version of NATO. The chief diplomat and leading China hawk within the Trump administration was also scheduled to visit South Korea and Mongolia.
And Taiwan has served as an increasingly significant element of the U.S. strategy for the region amid new consideration for providing it with military support. Officials at the Pentagon have reportedly begun calling it, “Fortress Taiwan.”
In advance of his trip, Pompeo referenced U.S. concerns about Beijing’s expansionism in the region of the Taiwan Straits, the contentious waterway that separates Taiwan from the mainland.
Other leading State Department officials say the U.S. has no intention of provoking China militarily over Taiwan.
The administration’s primary interest is “ensuring and insisting that the issues with the mainland and with Taiwan are resolved peacefully and through dialogue,” Assistant Secretary of State David Stilwell told reporters last week. “And that’s what you’ve seen the administration steps are reinforcing that, that commitment made by both sides.”