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China 'very likely' to seize Taiwan's Kinmen as distraction: Official

Official says Xi will invade Taiwan's outer islands to distract from domestic issues, complete 'historical duties'

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Members of Kinmen Defense Command take part in 2021 Han Kuang Exercise. 

Members of Kinmen Defense Command take part in 2021 Han Kuang Exercise.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — An official was cited by Taiwanese media as saying it is highly likely that China will take a page from Putin's playbook in Ukraine and first seize Taiwan's outer islands such as Kinmen and Matsu in order to distract from domestic issues and complete "historical duties."

The Liberty Times cited the official as saying that if Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping (習近平) does not meet domestic expectations following the extension of his rule at the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, he could face much blame and public grievances. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, suggested Xi will take two major courses of action.

First, in response to increased internal unrest, Xi will crack down on dissent. Second, he will use "historical duties" to distract from the internal problems, and with the "Hong Kong issue" resolved he will shift the focus to Taiwan.

Given the difficulties of seizing Taiwan proper, the official said the People's Liberation Army (PLA) may first assault outer islands that are beyond Taiwan's core defenses, such as Kinmen, Matsu, the Dongsha Islands (Pratas Islands), and Taiping Island (Itu Aba Island). The official suggested China could follow Russia's model of first absorbing the "pro-Russian" regions of Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Similarly, China may stage an invasion and occupation of the islands, and claim that the people of the "pro-China" islands of Kinmen and Matsu wish to return to the motherland. The official pointed out that Kinmen residents could be vulnerable to manipulation as they both enjoy the social welfare provided by Taiwan, while also welcoming the economic benefits from China.

The source predicted that if China limited itself to an invasion of the outer islands only, Taiwan may not have the military capabilities to retake them and foreign countries would be very unlikely to send in troops.

When asked about the possibility of China attacking Kinmen and Matsu, the source stressed a "reasonable conclusion" would be that this is "very likely." The official predicted that if China were to attack the main island of Taiwan, the international community would impose sanctions.

However, if China only occupied outer islands such as Kinmen, the source said it would be unlikely that foreign nations would impose heavy sanctions. The official bluntly stated that if the CCP continues to promote the development of cross-strait integration between Kinmen and Fujian Province's Xiamen, it will have a certain degree of influence on the island's people.

The official pointed out that Taiwan currently only has a framework for peaceful cross-strait exchanges and lacks legal guidelines for action to be taken in the event of war. After Xi secures his third term in office, the source said the situation may change from peace to war and, in addition to strengthening its combat readiness, Taiwan needs legal procedures to deal with various military scenarios.