It is crucial for the United States and China to retain a sense of level-headedness over Taiwan to ensure the situation does not become more unstable than it already is. Tensions in the strait have been ratcheting up visibly. Last week, 25 Chinese fighter jets and nuclear-capable bombers breached Taiwan’s air defence identification zone, the largest reported incursion into Taiwanese airspace. China also announced a six-day live-fire exercise in waters off Taiwan’s southwest coast that is to end tomorrow. Taiwan is planning to stage its own live-fire drills on the Pratas islands next week to prepare for a possible attack by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Its Coast Guard also threatened to shoot down PLA drones if they are sighted over the island, a move that will dramatically raise tensions. The Taiwan-controlled islands, also known as Dongsha, are claimed by Beijing.
The US, which is obliged by its laws to provide Taiwan with weapons and services for its defence while not recognising it as a country, has hardened its stance amid assessments in Washington that China is increasingly assertive and has achieved a better military parity in the western Pacific. Last month, US Indo-Pacific command head, Admiral Philip Davidson, told the Senate that China could take military action over Taiwan “in the next six years”. This month, the US issued new guidelines for easier interactions with Taiwanese officials and followed it up by sending an unofficial delegation, comprising prominent former officials and a senator, to meet President Tsai Ing-wen as a sign of President Joe Biden’s personal commitment to the island.