Taiwan says China bolstering ability to attack, blockade island

Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard
·2-min read
Residential buildings can be seen in Taipei

By Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) - China is bolstering its ability to attack and blockade Taiwan, deploying long-range missiles to prevent foreign forces helping in the event of war and using psychological warfare to undermine faith in Taiwan's military, the island's defence ministry said.

The ministry, in its once-every-four-years defence review, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, warned China was deploying "grey zone" warfare tactics to subdue the Chinese-claimed island, seeking to wear Taiwan down with repeated drills and activities near its airspace and waters.

"China has continued to modernise its military and increase its capability in a war with Taiwan," it said.

China's Defence Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

China views democratic Taiwan as its own territory, and has ramped up military activities in recent months, seeking to assert its sovereignty and express displeasure at Washington's support for the island.

The review offered sobering details about the threat Taiwan faces from the world's largest armed forces.

It said China was building copies of Taiwanese facilities so it could train to attack them and was conducting landing drills to simulate invading Taiwan.

China has the ability to partially shut down Taiwan's key ports and sea routes and cut off sea transport to the island, while its deployment of long-distance missiles is aimed at stopping foreign forces from assisting Taiwan, it said.

China's "hostility and threats against us have increased, elevating the risks of an accident and conflict and destroying stability and peace across the Taiwan Strait," the report said.

Chinese aircraft, including drones, are flying repeatedly in Taiwan's air defence identification zone, seeking to wear out Taiwan's air force, it added.

China is also spreading "fake news" in Taiwan to try and "damage people's faith in the country", the report said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said earlier this month that China would resolutely deter any separatist activity seeking Taiwan's independence.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen says Taiwan is already an independent country called the Republic of China, its formal name, and that she will defend its democracy and sovereignty.

Tsai is overseeing a military modernisation programme, including building submarines, upgrading Taiwan's air force, and developing long-range missiles of its own.

But its armed forces are dwarfed by China's which is adding stealth jets, aircraft carriers and other advanced equipment.

Taiwan is a key source of tension between Beijing and Washington, the island's main arms supplier and international backer, and was raised in high-level Sino-U.S. talks in Alaska on Thursday.

U.S. President Joe Biden's government, which took office on Jan. 20, has moved to reassure Taiwan that its commitment to them is "rock solid", especially after China stepped up its military activity near the island shortly after Biden's inauguration.

(Reporting by Yimou Lee and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Susan Fenton)