Taiwan will fight 'to the very last day' if China attacks

FILE - In this April 23, 2019, file photo, the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy aircraft carrier Liaoning participates in a naval parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of China's PLA Navy in the sea near Qingdao in eastern China's Shandong province. China says it is holding naval drills involving the battlegroup of the aircraft carrier Liaoning in waters near Taiwan. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, Pool, File)

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan’s foreign minister on Wednesday said the island will defend itself “to the very last day” if attacked by China.

Joseph Wu said China’s attempts at conciliation while engaging in military intimidation are sending “mixed signals” to the island’s residents.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory to be won over peacefully or by force.

Wu noted China flew 10 warplanes into Taiwan’s air defence identification zone on Monday and deployed an aircraft carrier group for exercises near Taiwan.

“We are willing to defend ourselves, that’s without any question," Wu told reporters. “We will fight a war if we need to fight a war, and if we need to defend ourselves to the very last day, then we will defend ourselves to the very last day.“

China does not recognize Taiwan’s democratically elected government, and leader Xi Jinping has said “unification” between the sides cannot be put off indefinitely.

“On the one hand they want to charm the Taiwanese people by sending their condolences, but at the same time they are also sending their military aircraft and military vessels closer to Taiwan aimed at intimidating Taiwan’s people," Wu said at a ministry briefing.

“The Chinese are sending very mixed signals to the Taiwanese people and I would characterize that as self-defeating," Wu said.

The vast improvements in China's military capabilities and its increasing activity around Taiwan have raised concerns in the U.S., which is legally bound to ensure Taiwan is capable of defending itself and to regard all threats to the island's security as matters of “grave concern."

Speaking in Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Taiwan. “The United States maintains the capacity to resist any resort to force or any other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security or the social or economic system of the people on Taiwan,” Price said Wednesday.

The naval drills being conducted in waters off Taiwan were meant to help China "safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests,” the army said Monday, using language often interpreted as being directed at Taiwan’s leadership that has refused to give in to Beijing’s demands that it recognize the island as part of Chinese territory.

Taiwan and China split amid civil war in 1949, and most Taiwanese favour maintaining the current state of de facto independence while engaging in robust economic exchanges with the mainland.

China has created conditions for greater economic integration, while also targeting some communities such as pineapple farmers in hopes of weakening their support for the island’s government.

Chinese diplomatic pressure has been growing also, reducing the number of Taiwan's formal diplomatic allies to just 15 and shutting its representatives out of the World Health Assembly and other major international forums.

Taiwan has responded by boosting its high-tech industries and unofficial foreign relations, particularly with its key partners the U.S., Japan and others, and by building up its own defence industries, including a submarine development program, while buying upgraded warplanes, missiles and other military hardware from the U.S.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy says the carrier Theodore Roosevelt and its strike group reentered the South China Sea on Saturday to “conduct routine operations.” It is the second time the strike group has entered the waterway this year as part of its 2021 deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

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