The trip by Undersecretary of State Keith Krach reportedly to discuss new weapons sales comes amid heightened tensions between Taiwan and the much larger military on the mainland.
Undersecretary of State Keith Krach exits a plane upon arrival at the air force base airport on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in Taipei, Taiwan.(CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY POOL/AP)
CHINA ON THURSDAY issued thinly veiled threats against Taiwan and the U.S. ahead of what it considers a provocative visit to Taipei by an American undersecretary of state to discuss new arms sales.
China has broadly condemned the visit, which it sees as a violation of the fragile “One China” agreement that has governed international relations with Taiwan for decades and a threat to Beijing’s legitimacy. The Chinese Communist Party considers Taiwan a renegade province, and only a dwindling number of small countries recognize it as a sovereign state.
However, it’s played a growing part in the Trump administration’s new attempts to ramp up pressure on China amid what it considers Beijing’s expansionism. Pentagon officials now refer to the island as “Fortress Taiwan” amid a new push to prepare it for a potential military incursion with Chinese forces.
China has escalated military activity in the region, including sailing ships and flying warplanes near Taiwan’s territory. Two military aircraft approached Taiwanese territory Wednesday in what appeared to be a warning in advance of Undersecretary of State Keith Krach’s arrival
Krach’s visit marks the highest ranking diplomatic official to visit Taiwan since the U.S. cut formal ties with the island in a compromise with China in 1979 and the second high-profile trip in recent weeks. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar led a U.S. delegation to Taiwan in early August.
Beijing’s criticism on Thursday, however, highlights a legitimate observation, that Taiwan could likely never withstand a military onslaught from the Chinese military, known as the People’s Liberation Army, if only for its sheer size.
That stark reality has raised concerns in Washington about whether it’s willing to provoke China with increased support for Taiwan and the extent to which it can reassure Taipei that the U.S. would be willing to engage in a military confrontation with China over the fate of the island.