WAR between the US and China is more likely than ever as a growing crisis brews over Taiwan, experts have warned.
Beijing’s increasingly aggressive actions are leading to a “dangerous flashpoint” towards a conflict that would probably draw in other major powers, according to an alarming report.
Threats from China have been stepping up in recent months with troops put on invasion readiness and repeated incursions into Taiwanese air space.
Now a chilling report by the Council on Foreign Relations think tank warned a “severe crisis” could be brewing in 2021 following “intensifying political and economic pressure from China against Taiwan”.
The CFR’s annual Preventive Priorities Survey of foreign policy experts said the potential clash in the region has risen to a “top-tier conflict” for the first time in its 13-year history.
Experts said Taiwan “is becoming the most dangerous flashpoint in the world for a possible war that involves the United States, China, and probably other major powers”.
The report’s authors says Joe Biden’s administration must change and clarify its strategy to prevent all-out war in the region.
“The US strategic objective regarding Taiwan should be to preserve its political and economic autonomy, its dynamism as a free society, and US-allied deterrence – without triggering a Chinese attack on Taiwan,” they say.
Any open conflict between the nuclear superpowers could be devastating for both countries and others in the region.
Joe Biden, who took an anti-war stance in the election, said earlier this month he expects future rivalry with China will take the form of “extreme competition” rather than conflict.
Meanwhile yesterday China sent two coast guard vessels into Japan’s territorial waters amid ongoing tensions over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Two armed ships – one equipped with a cannon – sailed close to the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, which are controlled by Japan by claimed by China.
The provocative incursion came after China enacted a new “Coast Guard Law” – also known as the “open fire” law – which allows sea forces to fire on any foreign vessel deemed a threat to its national sovereignty.
Last month Beijing sent dozens of bombers and fighter jets to Taiwan in a clear challenge to the US days after Joe Biden’s administration.
Defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian hinted at a full-scale invasion if the autonomous island moves towards full independence.
He said: “We are seriously telling those Taiwan independence forces: those who play with fire will burn themselves, and Taiwan independence means war.”
Biden responded by saying his support for Taiwan is “rock solid”.
TEST OF RESOLVE
Meanwhile a bombshell White House document – declassified by Donald Trump in his final weeks – revealed a US plan to take on China directly if it attacked Taiwan.
Taiwan, a nation of 25million, split from Chinese control after the Second World War, and never surrendered 1949 following the Chinese Civil War.
It has been striving for independence ever since, but recently Beijing has been aggressively pursuing reunification and President Xi Jinping threatened to use force to achieve that goal.
China’s repeated incursions into Taiwanese air space are designed to wear down its defence forces and test US resolve, said Justin Hastings, a professor in International Relations at the University of Sydney.
Prof Hastings told news.com.au China’s rhetoric was becoming more and more “bellicose”.
He said: “They say they will resolve the Taiwan issue even if it’s not peaceful and that they reserve the right to use the military.
“Now China is rising and becoming more aggressive, it’s not clear how the US can deter China.
“There’s also the situation that China has the incentive to test US resolve under the new Biden administration and it’s not clear if China will be willing to wait for ever.”
Military tensions between the US and China worsened during the Trump administration as the president also launched a trade war.
Biden spoke to President Xi for the first time since coming to power last week.
He pressed him on human rights and security – including Xi’s “increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan”, the White House said.
A week earlier Biden said Xi “doesn’t have a democratic bone in his body”, but signalled he would reset US policy and seek to avoid conflict.
He told CBS: “I’ve said to him all along, that we need not have a conflict. But there’s going to be extreme competition.
“I’m not going to do it the way Trump did. We’re going to focus on international rules of the road.”
In September, China vowed to “fight America to the end” amid revelations the US Navy is looking to supersize its mighty battle fleet.