A senior Taiwanese lawmaker is pressing Canada to say it would support the self-governing island in the event of an attack or blockade by China as a way to deter any such aggression.
Lo Chih-Cheng is the second-highest-ranking legislator in the caucus of the Democratic Progressive Party, which holds the presidency and a majority in the Legislative Yuan.
As chief secretary of the DPP caucus, Mr. Lo has a close relationship with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.
He said Canada does not have to specify what its support would constitute – whether it’s economic sanctions on China, humanitarian aid or even weapons for Taiwan – but it would be part of a welcome Western show of backing to help deter an attack by Beijing. And it would echo what the West did for Ukraine when Russia launched its February military assault.
Mr. Lo, who is also director of his party’s international affairs department, said Taiwan is hoping for these statements from Western democracies to help discourage China from attacking – what he called “extended deterrence by other countries.” U.S. military and intelligence experts expect China to have the capability to invade Taiwan by 2027.
“When we talk about assistance provided by democracies to a democracy under attack, there could be all kinds of help. So don’t restrict yourselves to military co-operation,” he said.
Canada and other Western countries don’t have to spell out their intended support, he said. “But you could say, ‘We could not allow a democracy to come under attack,’ and democracies should work together and we are hoping we can maintain the peace and stability of the region,” the lawmaker said. “I am for strategic clarity but tactical ambiguity.”
Mr. Lo spoke ahead of a visit of Canadian parliamentarians to Taiwan starting Sunday. Liberal MP Judy Sgro is leading a cross-party delegation of five MPs to demonstrate support for the island, which in August was encircled by China during provocative military drills that included firing ballistic missiles over Taiwan.
This Friday in Taipei, the island’s legislature is creating the Taiwan-Canada Interparliamentary Friendship Association, which includes more than 50 Taiwanese legislators, nearly half of the legislature.
Beijing’s authoritarian rulers consider Taiwan a breakaway province even though the Chinese Communist Party, which seized power on the mainland more than 70 years ago, has never governed the island. Beijing has not ruled out the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.
Mr. Lo said Canadians should realize that Taiwan is not China’s ultimate prize. What Beijing really wants, according to the Taiwan legislator, is to displace the U.S. military’s dominance in the western Pacific.
U.S. general Douglas MacArthur decades ago described Taiwan’s geostrategic importance as an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” and Mr. Lo said China needs the island to project its power across the Pacific.
A Taiwan that remains outside the control of Beijing and is allied with the United States “stands in the way of China becoming a true maritime power,” Mr. Lo said.
He said China’s rationale for laying claim to Taiwan invokes Chinese nationalism in the service of Beijing’s military goals.
Mr. Lo said talk of maintaining the status quo in the Taiwan Strait obscures the fact that China has been steadily shifting the balance of power by building up its air force and navy and militarizing the South and East China seas. It’s increasingly isolating Taiwan on the world stage by persuading remaining countries that recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country to sever relations. In 2000, Taiwan had official diplomatic relations with 29 member states of the United Nations, as well as the Holy See, and today the number has dropped to 13 and the Vatican. (Canada has not recognized Taiwan as a sovereign state since 1970.)
“The status quo is not static. China is changing it every day,” said Mr. Lo.
This week, Taiwan announced it regarded any intrusions into its airspace as a “first strike” – an effort to draw a new red line against encroachment by China.
China has not flown military aircraft into Taiwan’s airspace – above the island and extending 12 nautical miles out from the coastline – but its drones have patrolled above Kinmen Island, an outlying Taiwanese possession near the mainland.
Chinese military aircraft have increasingly crossed the median line in what Taiwan calls escalating harassment: that’s the midpoint in the waterway between Taiwan and China, which Taipei says was previously tacitly accepted by Beijing as an unofficial buffer.
Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng announced this new policy Wednesday.
“If you send your military aircraft and fly into our airspace, even if you don’t shoot, we will consider it a first strike,” Mr. Lo explained Thursday.
Next week, Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Wu is set to present Ms. Sgro with the “Special Medal of Diplomacy.”