The Chinese Communist Party’s harassment of Taiwan takes many forms.
Over the past month, about 30 drones have entered Taiwanese airspace and flown over two small islands off Taiwan’s southern coast.
On September 12, the Taiwanese military announced that a suspected Chinese drone entered restricted waters around Cao Yu’s Kinmen island. The military stationed on the island fired shots and used signal jamming weapons against the drone, forcing it to withdraw.
On September 1, another drone was intercepted flying near Shiyu Islet in Kimen. This time the army’s Kinmen Defense Command (KDC) shot down the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) after the device ignored warnings.
Jie Zhong, an analyst at Taiwan’s National Policy Research Foundation, commented, “China is using this bullying to increase pressure on us and then deliberately escalate some tensions around Taiwan.” He added, “Just because it’s a civilian drone doesn’t mean it has nothing to do with military purposes.”
While these drones are civilian, they could be used for intelligence or as a form of provocation and coercion, what analysts call a “gray zone” tactic.
China uses this tactic in order to force Taiwan into submission and avoid war. The methods range from flying fighter jets over the center line of the Taiwan Strait, military exercises near the island, and cyberattacks on the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Hang the island
At the beginning of August, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) began a series of exercises around Taiwan deploying ships and at least 80 combat aircraft using live fire and launching missiles.
The PLA fired rockets that hit Taiwanese islets near the mainland and launched ballistic missiles that streaked across the Taiwanese sky. Five missiles fell in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, perhaps a warning to the Japanese government, which is one of Taipei’s main allies.
According to Meng Xiangqing, professor of the PLA National Defense University, the six areas where the military exercises were held were chosen to show Taiwan how CCP could isolate its ports, attack its most important military installations, and cut off access to foreign forces that may come to its aid.
In an interview with the official CCTV network, Meng said, “Connect the six areas in a line, like a rope, with the knot of the rope just heading southwest.”
Carl Schuster, former director of operations for the U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center in Hawaii, said, “It suggests that Beijing would first isolate Taiwan and resort to air and missile strikes in hopes of breaking Taipei’s political will. An expensive invasion is probably the last resort.”
With the visit in early August of the U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Taiwan was the victim of a series of cyberattacks that showed the island’s vulnerability to this type of aggression.
Messages on electronic billboards both in Taipei and elsewhere were controlled by hackers and displayed messages such as “old witch” and “serious provocation to the sovereignty of the motherland” alluding to Pelosi.
Bulletins at 7-Eleven stores were also hacked, with screens reading “Warmonger Pelosi, get out of Taiwan.”
But perhaps the most serious was on the websites of the Presidential Office and the Foreign and Defense ministries when the pirates closed the web, which although it was for a short time, made authorities nervous.
Kuo Szu-Wei, cybersecurity analyst at the Institute for Information Industry (III) said, “When hackers access and change the content of display screens in train stations, convenience shops, and websites of university, these attacks are serious.” he added that the incidents indicate that malware has already been planted and data could have already been stolen.
Winds of war
With the announcement of increased defense spending by 2023 and the strengthening of its military capabilities, Taiwan is taking the CCP’s intimidation tactics very seriously and is preparing to defend itself against a possible large-scale attack.
The Biden administration approved the sale of military to the tune of more than $1.1 billion in sales to Taiwan, including anti-ship and surveillance radar. This is in addition to the arms sales made under the Trump administration.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen warned in a speech on the Penghu Islands in the Taiwan Strait that her military will not stand idly by in the face of aggression. She said, “We will not provoke disputes, we will exercise restraint, but that does not mean we will not strike back.”
Taiwan’s budget is far from the $229 billion that the CCP has for military spending this year. Direct US aid and influence in the world can narrow the margin.
A review of U.S. policy on Taiwan will be brought to the Senate this week.
This includes a new bill that provides $4.5 billion in aid to Taiwan over four years and would name the country a major non-NATO ally, with the benefits that this means in terms of defense, trade, and security.
United States does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country, but is committed to ensuring the island can defend itself.
China regards Taiwan as a rogue province, and is willing to stick to its “one China” plans.
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