Taiwan foreign minister calls on Australia to help defend against China’s ‘expansionism’

As Australia’s relationship with China worsens, Taiwan has called on Canberra to stand up for democracy and help defend the disputed island territory against threats of attack.

Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu has warned the risk of regional conflict is “higher than before” because of Beijing’s increasing aggression and authoritarianism.

Mr Wu has called on democracies including Australia to support Taiwan through sharing information and intelligence.

In an exclusive interview with ABC TV’s The World, Mr Wu accused China of “expansionism” that is a direct threat to Taiwan.

“China has been imposing national security law on Hong Kong. China has also been sending vessels to the disputed water in East China Sea,” he said.

“China is also trying to take control of the South China Sea, and had some skirmishes with India along the Indian border.

Chinese soldiers patrol in the Spratly Islands, near a sign saying the land is "sacred and inviolable".
Chinese soldiers patrol the Spratly Islands in the contested South China Sea.(Reuters)

Mr Wu said Taiwan was “feeling the heat” and accused Chinese military of encroaching on Taiwan’s critical Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ).

“If you look at the Chinese military activities around Taiwan, it’s been intensifying. We see that the Chinese military vessels as well as its military airplanes cross into Taiwan’s ADIZ, especially in the south west corner of Taiwan’s ADIZ almost on a daily basis,” he said.

“There were several times that the Chinese jet fighters crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

“The median line of the Taiwan Strait has been safeguarding peace and stability and the status quo for decades and this is something that we really worry about.”

China, which views its development as “peaceful”, has repeatedly urged foreign countries not to meddle in its internal affairs.

Responding to a question yesterday about the United States’ plans to sell arms to Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “China will resolutely fight back against all attempts that undermine China’s core interests and interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

“We also once again give the stern message to the Taiwan authorities that ‘Taiwan independence’ is a dead end. Attempts and actions to seek external interference and use [of] weaponry to deny reunification are doomed to fail.”

Taiwan a ‘potential scapegoat’ for Beijing

A composite of Taiwan foreign minister Joseph Wu and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Taiwan foreign minister Joseph Wu (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping.(AP: Chiang Ying-ying/Mark Schiefelbein)

Mr Wu said China’s President Xi Jinping could make Taiwan a scapegoat to relieve increasing pressures at home.

“If an authoritarian country is facing domestic difficulties, the easiest way for them to keep the country together will be … to find a scapegoat outside,” he said.

“We are very concerned that Taiwan might become a scapegoat of the Chinese military.

“If you look at the Chinese domestic difficulties these days, [it] seems to be that the Chinese leaders are having a hard time keeping the country together.

“Economic slowdown has been so apparent that earlier this year they did not even announce their statistics on economic growth.

“And if the Chinese economy is not growing, I think it’s going to take away the communists’ legitimacy.”

When asked if he meant the risk of war was growing, Mr Wu said: “We cannot rule out that possibility.”

“Of course, I cannot predict that the war is going to take place next year or the year after, things like that,” he added.

“But if you look at the preparation on the Chinese side, we have to be very concerned about the real prospect of China launching a military attack against Taiwan.

“And as a decision maker I can tell you that we are looking at it with no light heart.”

Mr Wu said a strong Australia was crucial to regional security.

“Australia has been a very powerful element or actor in the Indo Pacific,” he said.

“I’ve seen throughout history that Australia has made so much sacrifice in order to protect [global] principles and values.

“Therefore, I see like-minded countries like Japan and Australia and India and the United States can also work together to prevent China from further expansionism.”

Defending Taiwan ‘crucial’ for democracy

Mr Wu’s comments come as Australia-China relations hit new lows.

Beijing recently imposed new tariffs on Australian products and released a list of grievances it demands Canberra fix.

Earlier this week, a senior Chinese bureaucrat posted a fake image on twitter highlighting allegations of war crimes by Australian troops in Afghanistan.

Joe Biden smiling with his hand on Xi Jinping's shoulder
Incoming United States president Joe Biden (right) sees China as a strategic threat.(Reuters: David McNew)

Mr Wu said other nations must support Australia to resist Chinese pressure.

“The Australian strategy is a stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific. And I think this is the strategy that is in line with many other like-minded countries.”

Australia, Japan, India and the US — the so-called quadrilateral (Quad) group — are increasing military cooperation.

Xi Jinping has made a priority of returning Taiwan to mainland China control and has warned the Taiwanese government against any moves to independence.

It is a fault line that could tip two global superpowers — America and China — into conflict.

Mr Wu said defending Taiwan was crucial to defending democracy.

“It’s up to the decision makers in Canberra to think about what is the best strategy for the country in dealing with such challenges,” he said.

“In Taiwan, we have been facing the threats of China for decades. And for us, the best strategy to deal with the … Chinese threat is just to prepare ourselves for the possible onslaught.”

The ABC has approached the Chinese embassy for comment.

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