TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – As China increases its military clout in the Pacific, U.S. military officials are calling for a more firm stance towards supporting democracies in the region, particularly Taiwan, which is a potential flash point.
Chinese leader Xi Jingping warned in January that China would not rule out the use of force to achieve reunification, should Taiwan move towards declaring independence or if external forces intend to intervene.
Underscoring the threat posed by Beijing, a U.S. military official in Hawaii reckoned that when a nation expressed the intention to “forcibly assault an island, we should be concerned,” Foreign Policy quoted the official as saying.
A U.S. Air Force official argued that China has constructed eight islands in the region between the Spratly and Paracel island chains, establishing airfields and deploying advanced surface-to-air missiles. Meanwhile, China boasts approximately 100,000 to 150,000 fishing vessels that can be put into operation to “blockade, intimidate, or coerce” other countries, the report wrote.
The U.S. should seek to place a “premium” on helping transform Taiwan’s military and defense capabilities to bolster deterrence, an official suggested, including air defense systems, precision artillery, and anti-ship cruise missiles.
To demonstrate its commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, two U.S. naval warships passed through the Taiwan Strait on March 24, the third such passage by U.S. naval vessels this year, despite Chinese objections, reported Reuters.
A Bloomberg report said Washington has given tacit approval to the request by Taiwan to procure 60 new F-16 fighter jets, a move that has drawn the ire of China with a new round of protests.