TAIPEI, March 6 (Reuters) – Taiwan Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng warned on Monday the island has to be on alert this year for Chinese military’s “sudden entry” into areas close to its territory amid the rising military tensions across the sensitive Taiwan Strait.
China has stepped up its military activities around Taiwan in recent years, including almost daily Air Force incursions into the island’s air defence identification zone.
However, Taiwan has not yet reported any incident of Chinese forces entering its contiguous zone, which is 24 nautical miles (44.4 km) from its coastline.
Answering questions from a lawmaker in parliament, Chiu said the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) might find excuses to enter areas close to Taiwan’s territorial air and sea space as the island steps up its military exchanges with the United States, to Beijing’s ire.
He said the PLA might make a “sudden entry” into Taiwan’s contiguous zone and get close to its territorial space, which the island defines as 12 nautical miles from its coastlines.
“(I) specifically make these comments this year, meaning they are making such preparations,” he said. “Looking forward, they would use force if they really have to.”
Taiwan has vowed to exercise its right to self-defence and counterattack if Chinese armed forces entered its territory.
China claims self-governed Taiwan as its own and has not renounced the use of force to bring the island under Chinese control, if needed. Taiwan strongly rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only its people can decide their future.