Taiwan has confirmed its air defences detected multiple Chinese jets enter its airspace amidst heightened tension with Beijing. The United States’ health secretary, Alex Azar, is currently visiting the island whilst sitting down to hold talks with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen. This has risen tensions between Washington and China, with the latter declaring it a threat to peace. In an announcement, Beijing said: “We urge the US… not to send any wrong signals to ‘Taiwan independence’ elements to avoid severe damage to China-US relations”.
Azar’s visit is the most high-profile meeting between the two nations since 1979. Speaking to the press, the Health and Human Services Secretary claimed there were “three overarching themes” in his visit. “The first is to recognise Taiwan as an open and democratic society, executing a highly successful and transparent Covid-19 response,” he said. “The second is to reaffirm Taiwan as a long partner and friend of the United States… The third is to note that Taiwan deserves to be recognised as a global health leader with an excellent track record of contributing to international health.”
The United States have been keen to highlight the importance of Taiwan’s role in the fight against Covid-19. The island has currently reported fewer than 480 coronavirus cases, with a figure of just seven deaths. Azar told President Tsai: “Taiwan’s response to Covid-19 has been the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent, democratic nature of Taiwan’s society and culture”.
Officially known as the Republic of China, Taiwan is a disputed island in East Asia. China refuse to recognise its independence and considers it a breakaway province, part of its “one China” principle. The meeting, which strives to recognise the region as a “global health leader” is at the forefront of a wider debate in which Taiwan is not considered part of the World Health Organization due to the United Nations’ and China’s refusal to recognise it.
The emergence of Chinese fighters in Taiwanese airspace is another warning to the United States to stay out of these affairs. It is likely to cause widespread fear in a region already caught up in turmoil with Chinese encroachment in Hong Kong.