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Former PLA colonel says China will retaliate if name of Taiwan office changes

Yue Gang believes more military exercises, incursions into air defense zone likely if name change proceeds in Washington

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(Weibo, PLAAF photo)

(Weibo, PLAAF photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Former People’s Liberation Army Colonel Yue Gang (岳剛) says Beijing would definitely retaliate if Taiwan’s representative office in the U.S. successfully changed its name but that it would stop short of a military attack.

Reports emerged on Sept. 11 that the White House is reportedly "seriously considering" Taiwan's request to change the name of its representative office in Washington, D.C., from the “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office” to the “Taiwan Representative Office.” The proposal is said to be backed by many within the National Security Council and officials of the State Department's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

“Certainly, we would not spare Taiwan from punishment if they did change the name of the mission, because the Taiwanese independence forces initiated it through intense lobbying and promotion, to cater and facilitate the anti-China atmosphere in Washington,” the South China Morning Post quoted Yue as saying.

The retired colonel suggested that China could launch large-scale drills in the Taiwan Strait and near Taiwan or increase the frequency of sorties across the median line of the strait. Additionally, Chinese military planes could fly deeper into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone to cause “[Taiwan's] psychological red lines to break”.

However, Yue pointed out Beijing would probably not dispatch planes directly into Taiwan’s immediate airspace, as its goal is “to put them under mental pressure, not to start the war just yet.”

Wang Kung-yi (王崑義), head of the Taipei-based think tank Taiwan International Strategic Study Society, said the name change would prompt Beijing to hit back against Washington by refusing to cooperate on issues such as climate change and the Taliban in Afghanistan, per the SCMP.

“China is not going to bear with it… and would even do whatever it could to up its ante in the East and South China [seas],” he said.

Lu Yeh-chung (盧業中), a diplomacy professor at Taiwan’s National Chengchi University, said China could recall its ambassador to the U.S. but that this would not be ideal because the resulting damage to bilateral ties “could take years to recover,” according to the SCMP. China “does not want to sour China-US relations further,” he added.