US sends warships to deter attack on Taiwan

Chinese military build-up ahead of presidential election spreads alarm throughout region, Stephen Vines reports

Hong Kong - The confrontation between Taiwan and China is reaching a level where the risk of an accidental clash is as high as that of a deliberate act of provocation, says a senior Western military source based here.

The official said in a private briefing that a number of nations are becoming increasingly worried about mounting military activity across the Taiwan Strait. Tension is higher now than at any time in the past two decades, he said, and is set against a background of uncertainty about the future Chinese leadership after Deng Xiaoping dies.

The Taiwan regime's former protector, the United States, which now recognises the People's Republic as the only legitimate government of China, is seeking to deter Peking from aggressive action by sending the amphibious command ship USS Blue Ridge, flagship of the 7th Fleet, and some smaller vessels to the area soon. The ship is officially paying a visit to Hong Kong, but Washington is keen to make a highly visible gesture. In December a similar message was delivered when the Nimitz, a large aircraft carrier, made its way through the Taiwan Strait.

The current concern was sparked by reports of a massive Chinese military exercise planned to take place after the Chinese New Year holidays at the end of next week. That is also about a month before Taiwan's first presidential election, which is expected to deliver overwhelming backing to the incumbent, Lee Teng-hui, accused by China of poisoning relations with Peking.

The Hong Kong Sing Tao newspaper published a report saying that the exercise would involve 400,000 troops, but diplomatic sources believe this is exaggerated as it implies the participation of 13 per cent of China's armed forces - more people than Taiwan's entire armed forces.

The most ominous Chinese exercise, among a series which began last August, was held last November when Chinese troops launched a mock invasion of an island 200km from Taiwan. This involved only about 20,000 soldiers and the People's Liberation Army had to mobilise civilian vessels to carry them.

China is evidently keen to maintain the tension. Peking is declining to deny a US report that China was threatening to launch daily missile attacks against Taiwan for 30 days after the presidential election.

Taiwan meanwhile is showing restraint by not holding military exercises of its own, as it did last year, apart from scheduled manoeuvres. The defence ministry also downplayed the reports of new military exercises. However President Lee is stepping up his verbal attacks on China. On Monday he taunted Peking, accusing it of "being scared to death" of Taiwan's ability to hold democratic elections.

President Lee, the first native Taiwanese president, alarms China because of suspicions that he is abandoning his Nationalist party's commitment to the reunification of China and Taiwan. Moreover, his success in regaining international recognition for Taiwan is viewed as undermining Peking's claim to be the sole Chinese sovereign power. The Nationalist regime, expelled from the mainland by the Communist victory of 1949, still claims to be the government of China. Peking's longstanding position is that it will invade only if Taiwan declares itself independent.

Even if Peking does not attack it is succeeding in creating an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty. Taipei's stock market has fallen 27 per cent in 12 months.

Suggested Topics
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments