Cross-strait tensions remained high amid intense Chinese and U.S. military activity. Taiwanese defence ministry claimed series of Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwanese Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) during month, including: one Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft and one Y-8 electronic warfare aircraft 9 and 21 Dec; one Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft 1, 2, 6, 7, 26 Dec; one Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, one Y-8 tactical reconnaissance aircraft and one Y-8 electronic warfare aircraft 4 Dec; one Y-8 electronic warfare aircraft 10 Dec; one Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft and one Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft 15 Dec; one Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft, one Y-8 electronic intelligence aircraft, one Y-9 electronic aircraft, and one Y-8 reconnaissance aircraft 16 Dec; one Y-8 anti-submarine aircraft and one Y-8 electronic aircraft 20, 22, 24 Dec. In response, Taiwan scrambled jets, broadcast radio warnings and tracked planes with air defence system on each occasion. Meanwhile, U.S. continued military activity in region and support for Taiwan. U.S. govt 7 Dec notified Congress of new $280mn arms sale package to Taiwan. Aircraft spotters 14 Dec detected U.S. Navy surveillance drone flying within ADIZ. Chinese military 19 Dec said it had “tailed and monitored” guided missile destroyer USS Mustin as it passed through Taiwan Strait, denouncing such missions as “flirtatious glances to Taiwan independence forces”; U.S. Navy said warship had conducted “routine Taiwan Strait transit [...] in accordance with international law”. Two U.S. Navy destroyers, USS John S. McCain and USS Curtis Wilbur, 31 Dec conducted a rare “double transit” of Taiwan Strait. China 20 Dec sailed Shandong aircraft carrier through Taiwan Strait; Chinese navy 21 Dec said that Shandong was on its way to conduct drills in South China Sea; Taiwanese defence ministry same day said it had deployed six ships and eight types of aircraft to monitor situation. Japanese State Minister of Defence Yasuhide Nakayama 25 Dec called on U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to “be strong” in supporting Taiwan, referring to country’s safety as “red line.”
After drifting toward crisis for much of 2004, the outlook for stability across the Taiwan Strait has improved.
Each side’s most preferred solution for resolving the continuing Taiwan Strait issue – in the case of Taipei, widely recognised de jure independence; and in the case of Beijing, reunification of China on the same ‘one country, two systems’ basis as Hong Kong – are both non-starters.
Apparently irreconcilable positions on the ‘one China’ principle have emerged between China and Taiwan over the last decade, with Taiwan for some time now asserting not only that it is a separate political entity but an independent sovereign country.
China's underlying position on its cross-Strait relations, however strong its current commitment to peaceful diplomacy, is that Taiwan must make sustained, visible progress toward a peaceful settlement or risk a resort to armed hostilities.
In the last decade, Taiwan has moved slowly but surely away from its commitment to the idea of ‘one China’, the proposition, long agreed on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, that Taiwan and the mainland are parts of one country.