South China Sea: Taiwan bolsters military amid chilling warning – Beijing ‘capable of war’

South China Sea: Expert predicts no conflict for five years

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Chiu Kuo-cheng, Taiwan’s defence minister, addressed the nation’s parliament on Tuesday with a warning that neighbour China could attack. “They are capable of starting a war,” said Mr Chiu.

“My goal is for us to be ready at all times.”

The warning comes as Taiwan increases its presence in the disputed waters – in particular at Itu Aba, the main island in the Paracels archipelago chain.

Mr Chiu said the increased military presence on Itu Aba was a response to China’s “expansionism” which has seen Beijing create artificial islands in the region.

He added that Taiwan’s military is still not considering a permanent position on the island.

Taiwan’s military bolstering is running simultaneously with a joint US project to increase marine capabilities.

Mr Chiu said that the US had approved the export of submarine parts and equipment in order for Taiwan to build their own submarine fleet.

Speaking on Tuesday, he confirmed that the first arms sales under the Biden administration had taken place.

Mr Chiu said: “On the delivery period, we need to follow the procedures in due course and I can’t say when exactly they will arrive.

“After all, there are operational procedures.”

Plans to bolster Taiwan’s ageing fleet of four submarines have been in place since 2016.

The first submarine prototype is scheduled to be launched in July 2024 and is set to cost around NT$49.4 billion (£1.25 billion).

The arms sale of these strategic submarine parts comes ahead of talks between Washington and Beijing set to take place on Thursday, March 18 in Alaska.

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The talks will be the first face-to-face meeting between senior officials since President Joe Biden took office and tensions in the South China Sea have been tabled for discussion.

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