The United States has stepped in to denounce China over its aggressive military intimidation of Taiwan after the island-nation accused China of its largest ever air force incursion into Taiwan's air defence zone over the weekend.
The US urged China to stop its "provocative" military action on Sunday (local time) after a three day period which saw close to 100 Chinese military aircraft – including bombers – entered Taiwan's air space, in a steady escalation of military intimidation.
Taiwan's defence ministry said it sent combat aircraft to warn away the Chinese aircraft, while missile systems were deployed to monitor them.
China's repeated threats to reclaim Taiwan by force have turned the Taiwan Strait into a potential global flashpoint with observers warning of the possibility of conflict erupting.
Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang condemned China for its actions, saying the country was engaging in military aggression and damaging regional peace.
US commitment to Taiwan 'is rock solid'
The issue of Taiwan independence promises to be a dangerous one in the coming years – and the United States has reaffirmed its "rock solid" commitment to defending Taiwan's sovereignty.
"The United States is very concerned by the People's Republic of China's provocative military activity near Taiwan, which is destabilising, risks miscalculations, and undermines regional peace and stability," the US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
"We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure and coercion against Taiwan."
The United States has an abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and will continue to assist Taiwan in maintaining a "sufficient self-defence capability," Price added.
"The US commitment to Taiwan is rock solid and contributes to the maintenance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and within the region."
China has yet to comment on its activities, and it is not clear what may have caused Beijing to decide to mount the missions, though Friday was the country's National Day, a patriotic holiday that marks the founding of the People's Republic.
It has previously said such flights were to protect the country's sovereignty and aimed against "collusion" between Taiwan and the United States.
Taiwan asks for Australian help in war against China
Taiwan's Foreign Minister has issued an uncharacteristically sobering warning, saying his nation is preparing for war with China.
According to the ABC, he is asking for Australia's help as tensions continue to rise.
"If China is going to launch a war against Taiwan we will fight to the end, and that is our commitment," he told the ABC's China Tonight program in an interview to be aired on Monday night.
"I'm sure that if China is going to launch an attack against Taiwan, I think they are going to suffer tremendously as well."
He added that like-minded countries need to work together to repel China.
"We would like to engage in security or intelligence exchanges with other like-minded partners, Australia included, so Taiwan is better prepared to deal with the war situation," he said.
Australia previously warned of potential move on Taiwan
Democratic and self-ruled Taiwan split from China at the end of a civil war in 1949, and is a long-time US ally. But Beijing has always maintained its claim of sovereignty over the island.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has threatened the use of force to subdue Taiwan if necessary, a prospect that has the potential to push the US and its allies into heated conflict.
The Australian Defence Department was warned last year that Xi Jinping’s government was “highly likely” to attempt to take over Taiwan using “all means short of war” as it continues to adopt usual tactics of intimidation against its stated target.
Australia, meanwhile, has further bolstered its strategic alliance with the United States after announcing the recent AUKUS partnership which will see US and British military technology shared with Australia as well as Australia eventually acquiring a fleet of US-built, nuclear-fulled submarines.
It's been described as Australia's "big gamble" on the US over China.
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