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Under the autocratic rule of Xi Jinping, China is “putting the pieces in place” to invade Taiwan by 2027, as well as “stop the United States” from being able to intervene or support the defending forces against an attack. Experts and political figures have warned that the war in Ukraine is emboldening Xi in his belief China can launch its own invasion, and Florida’s Republican Congressman Michael Waltz, who has just visited Taiwan, suggested the independent nation now believes it is a case of “when China invades, not if”.
Speaking to Fox News, the congressman suggested China, learning from the reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, was building up an army and naval force capable of “sinking US aircraft carriers” and “rapidly modernising their nuclear weapons” so that the impact of any Western influence can be minimised.
Mr Waltz said: “I was just out in Taiwan and increasingly the sentiment is not if China invades, it is just when. It has gotten to that point.
“The risks are becoming more manageable from Xi’s standpoint. He has solidified power in his own hands, he humiliated his predecessor and he just got a third five-year term.
“He is putting the pieces in place to not only invade Taiwan militarily by 2027, that’s when he has told his military to be ready to go, but also stop the United States from intervening, including being able to sink our aircraft carriers, take out our assets in space, and they are rapidly modernising their nuclear weapons so they have a deterrent there.”
China has stepped up military activities near democratically governed Taiwan since August when it conducted blockade drills around the island following a visit to Taipei by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“Beijing should stop its sabre-rattling as it only deepens the gap between the two sides and raises tensions in the region,” Mainland Affairs Council minister Chiu Tai-san told a forum in Taipei.
“We urge mainland China to lay down arms and maintain peace and stability. The key to peace is to reverse the mindset of handling problems with force,” Chiu said, adding Beijing should resolve disagreements with Taipei via “a constructive dialogue without preconditions”.
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Chiu added that he hoped China could gradually relax its travel restrictions to control the COVID-19 pandemic so that the two sides could resume “healthy and orderly exchanges and create room for positive interaction”.
But China has repeatedly rebuffed offers for talks on the basis of equality with mutual respect by Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, who Beijing views as a separatist.
And China considers Taiwan its own territory. Earlier this month, President Xi Jinping said in a speech at the opening of the Communist Party Congress in Beijing that it is up to the Chinese people to resolve the Taiwan issue and that China will never renounce the use of force over Taiwan. He also called for accelerating plans to build a world-class military.
Taipei says only the island’s 23 million people can decide their future, and that as Taiwan has never been ruled by the People’s Republic of China its sovereignty claims are void.
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At the turn of the millennium, China had roughly 100 fewer principal combat ships than the US, but as of 2022, they have 348 ships, including the most advanced warship ever built in China, revealed over the summer, while the US has just 296 combat ships.
The Chinese and US navy forces will be pivotal if a war in Taiwan breaks out, since the independent nation is an island and any assault would have to begin amphibiously.
Australia’s defence minister Richard Marles, who is also deputy prime minister, warned earlier this year that “China’s military buildup is now the largest and most ambitious we have seen by any country since the end of the second world war”.
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