For years, the political status of Taiwan has been clouded by tensions. The People’s Republic of China identifies Taiwan as part of its territory however, Taiwan has been governed independently by its own democratic government since 1949. Tensions escalated, even more, when Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen got elected in 2016 and halted cross-strait ties. The fact that the United States maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan and sells defense equipment to its military provokes China to be more aggressive towards the strait of Taiwan.
US House Speaker’s Asia Tour
Recently, the US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office made announcements about her Asia tour and hinted that the speaker would also visit Taiwan. This did not sit well with China as President XiJinping warned his US counterpart Joe Biden that the US should not indulge in actions that might challenge the “One-China” principle.
As Nancy Pelosi’s flight “SPAR 19” took off for her Asia tour on 30th July, China warned that Pelosi’s plane will be shot down from the sky and started shifting its military equipment specifically its HQ-22 long-range air defense missiles closer to the Fujian province which is in the Taiwanese direction. To put forward a display of power, China also started live-fire exercises in the Strait of Taiwan to which the US responded by commanding its own warships in the region to launch their fire exercise. It is unclear if increased tension caused it or it was a strategic move but the next update from the US House Speaker’s office did not mention a visit to Taiwan. The press release among other details announced that the House Speaker would visit Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan.
However, on 31st July, the Chinese media while citing information from Chinese intelligence reported that US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will fly towards Taiwan from the Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines on 4th August. A spokesman of the Chinese Air Force said that “Beijing will encircle the island if necessary”, although there was no confirmation from the US about this visit yet. The Taiwanese broadcaster TVBS reported on 1st August that Nancy Pelosi will reach the Taiwanese capital, Taipei on the night of 2nd August. Upon this. The Chinese foreign ministry made a statement that the Chinese military will “not sit by idly” if the US House Speaker visits Taiwan.
Possibility of Military Conflict?
Taiwan has time and again proved to be a flash point in US-China relations. United States by means of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) has maintained defense, commercial, cultural, and other ties with Taiwan. US has adopted the policy of strategic ambiguity in the case of Taiwan which makes it unclear if the US would come to Taiwan’s defense if the need arises. However, US president Joe Biden rejected the policy affirming that the United States will indeed come to Taiwan’s defense if it gets attacked by China. However, considering the current scenario where US could have avoided escalating political tension, it could be asserted that the US is using Taiwan as a proxy to provoke China.
Fatima Zainab studies Strategic and Nuclear Studies at National Defence University, Islamabad. She is an IBM Certified Cybersecurity Analyst. Her areas of interest cover Cyber Warfare, Contemporary Security Studies, and International Politics.