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China-Taiwan military tensions worsen risk of a “misfire”

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Escalating military tensions between China and Taiwan have dominated headlines in recent days and weeks. Over a four day period beginning last Friday, Taiwan reported close to 150 Chinese air force aircraft entered its air defence zone, a buffer outside the island’s airspace.

Taiwan’s Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told the parliament the situation was “the most serious” in more than 40 years since he joined the military. “For me as a military man, the urgency is right in front of me,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

While answering a Taiwanese parliamentary committee reviewing extra defence spending of T$240 billion ($8.6 billion) for homemade weapons including missiles and warships, Chiu Kuo-cheng also noted that there was an added risk of “misfire” across the sensitive Taiwan Strait.

China sees Taiwan as part of its territory, but Taipei sees itself as sovereign. Earlier this week Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told Australia’s ABC TV his country was preparing for China to launch an invasion.

“We are very concerned that China is going to launch a war against Taiwan at some point,” he told the TV channel. “We are very concerned [that] if domestic [in China] discontent or economic slowdown is getting very serious, Taiwan could become a target.”

Separately, he said it would pay close attention to a planned summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the United States being Taiwan’s most important backer  and main military supplier.

The two leaders plan to meet virtually before the end of this year, a senior U.S. administration official told CNBC on Wednesday.  The meeting will occur virtually as Xi is not planning to attend any upcoming multilateral events in person, including G20, COP26 and APEC, the American news outlet reported citing sources familiar with the matter. Details will be worked out in the coming days.

Under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, passed by the U.S. Congress after Washington switched official diplomatic recognition to Beijing from Taipei, Washington is obligated to support Taiwan’s defense capabilities against China.

Beijing blames Washington’s policies of supporting Taiwan with arms sales and sending warships through the Taiwan Strait for raising tensions.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen  told senior French and Australian dignitaries who visited the island on Thursday that Taipei will ensure regional peace and stability and seeks to work with other like-minded democracies.

The U.S. has decided to deploy its troops in Taiwan for at least a year amid growing concerns about China’s latest activities in the region, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Thursday, citing sources from the government.

Some warn governments are using the geopolitical tensions for domestic political purposes.

With reporting by Reuters, ABC TV, CNBC, WSJ