Cross-strait tensions spiked amid heightened Chinese military activity and senior U.S. official’s visit to Taiwan. Following Aug visit of U.S. health chief Alex Azar, U.S. State Under Secretary Keith Krach 17-19 Sept visited Taiwan for memorial service in highest level visit by U.S. cabinet official since 1979; Chinese MFA 17 Sept said trip “severely violates the one-China principle” and urged Washington to “immediately stop official exchange with Taiwan”. Beijing conducted live-fire exercises during visit, with Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper quoting experts who suggested drills are “rehearsal for a Taiwan takeover”; 18 Chinese jets, including H-6 bombers and J-16 fighters, conducted military drills in Taiwan Strait 18 Sept, with 19 jets, including a Y-8 anti-submarine plane, holding exercises next day; in response, Taipei scrambled jets and tracked jets with air defence system both days. President Tsai 20 Sept denounced drills, saying they demonstrated to regional countries “threat posed by China”. Prior to visit, Taiwanese military 4 Sept denied claims on social media that its forces had shot down Chinese jet, which crossed median line in Taiwan Strait – referring to de facto sea demarcation that both sides have generally observed for decades. Chinese jets 9-10 Sept entered Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone, while two Y-8’s entered zone 16 Sept. Beijing 14-20 Sept held navy exercises in Yellow Sea, while Taiwan 14-18 Sept conducted computer-aided “war games” as part of annual military drills. Taiwanese FM Wu 17 Sept called for international support to deter “China’s expansionist motivation” during interview. Tensions rose further when Chinese MFA 21 Sept announced that “there is no so-called center line in the Taiwan Strait”, referring to median line. Main Taiwan opposition Kuomintang party 14 Sept announced it would not send official delegation to annual cross-Strait forum following Chinese state media China Central Television 10 Sept headline that claimed party was coming to “plead for peace” amid Taiwan-China tensions. Reuters 16 Sept reported Washington plans to sell up to seven major weapons systems such as mines, cruise missiles and drones to Taipei.
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.