China threat remains
China's threat of force is undiminished, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said yesterday, even though Beijing's largest ever military drills around the island seemed to be scaling down.
Furious about a visit to Taiwan last week by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, China launched ballistic missiles and deployed multiple aircraft and warships in recent days to simulate sea and air attacks.
China said on Wednesday it would keep up patrols but had "completed various tasks" around Taiwan, signalling a possible end to the war games even while keeping up pressure.
In a white paper published the same day, China's Taiwan Affairs Office said Beijing would "not renounce the use of force" against its neighbour and reserved "the option of taking all necessary measures". "We are ready to create vast space for peaceful reunification, but we will leave no room for separatist activities in any form," it said in the paper.
Taiwan has also been conducting relatively small-scale, annual exercises, scheduled before the flare-up and aimed at preparing to repel an invasion.
"At present, the threat of Chinese military force has not decreased," Tsai told air force officers, according to a statement from her office.
Taiwan will not escalate conflict nor provoke disputes, her office quoted her as saying, adding: "We will firmly defend our sovereignty and national security, and adhere to the line of defence of democracy and freedom."
A source briefed on the matter told Reuters that the number of warships close to the Taiwan Strait's median line, an unofficial buffer, was "greatly reduced" from previous days.
Taiwan's Defence Ministry said in a statement it had detected 21 Chinese military aircraft and six Chinese naval ships in and around the Taiwan Strait yesterday, of which 11 planes had crossed over the median line.
Taiwan has lived under the threat of Chinese invasion since 1949 when the defeated Republic of China nationalist government fled to the island after Mao Zedong's Communist Party won a civil war.
China says its relations with Taiwan are an internal matter and it reserves the right to bring the island under its control, by force if necessary. Taiwan's democratically-elected government says the People's Republic of China has never governed the island so has no right to decide its future or claim it for themselves.