China is taking lessons from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Taiwan’s foreign minister says

Taiwan’s foreign minister says China is likely looking at the war in Ukraine to inform a potential invasion of the island.

Russia has suffered a significant number of losses in Ukraine in recent months. Although Russia claims its forces took control of the salt-mining town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine last week, the front lines have barely budged since its last big retreat in the south two months ago.

Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told CBC News Network’s Rosemary Barton Live in an interview airing Sunday that China could be looking at Russia’s military setbacks to shore up a plan to invade Taiwan.

“I think what the Chinese are learning from [the war in Ukraine] is the weakness of the Russian military so that they can strengthen themselves in their future possible attack against Taiwan,” Wu told host Rosemary Barton.

WATCH | Taiwan’s foreign minister discusses threat from China:

Taiwan’s foreign minister speaks about threat of Chinese invasion

Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, speaks to CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton about the rising concerns of Chinese invasion and what the island democracy hopes for from allies around the world.

“Of course, this is going to be a wrong lesson, because war means devastation.”

On Wednesday, China renewed its threats to attack Taiwan and warned that foreign politicians who interact with the self-governing island are “playing with fire.”

The comments came as German and Lithuanian politicians visited the island last week.

A spokesperson for China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said the country was recommitted in the new year to “safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity” and “smashing plots for Taiwan independence.” The self-governing democracy separated from mainland China in 1949.

A number of foreign lawmakers — including Canadian MPs — have visited the island in recent months, spurring displays of military might from both China and Taiwan in the Taiwan Strait.

At the end of December, China sent 71 planes and seven ships toward Taiwan — the largest such exercise in 2022.

Wu said Taiwan is attempting to strengthen its own military capabilities but insisted that the island doesn’t want a war with China.

“We are trying to prevent the war from taking place,” he said.

In a separate interview on Rosemary Barton Live, Defence Minister Anita Anand said Canada is concerned about China’s military demonstrations in the Taiwan Strait.

WATCH | Is a Chinese invasion of Taiwan inevitable? 

Is a Chinese invasion of Taiwan inevitable?

“Xi Jinping is under enormous pressure domestically,” Brett Bruen, president of Global Situation Room, tells Power & Politics. “If he is looking to try to shore up domestic support, we may see him try to undertake a … minor incursion of Taiwan.”

The federal government’s Indo-Pacific strategy, released in November, states that “Canada will oppose unilateral actions that threaten the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.”

“We need to make sure that Canada has an increased presence in that area and we are cooperating with our allies to ensure substantive engagement occurs,” Anand told Barton.

U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said last month that he doubts the rising military tensions in the region will result in an invasion.

Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Wu speaks during an interview in Taipei, Taiwan on November 6, 2019. (Fabian Hamacher/Reuters)

“We’ve seen increased aerial activity in the straits, we’ve seen increased surface vessel activity around Taiwan,” Austin said. “”But whether or not that means that an invasion is imminent, you know, I seriously doubt that.”

But Brett Bruen, a former U.S. director of global engagement in the Obama administration, told CBC News Network’s Power & Politics that Chinese President Xi Jinping may opt for a small invasion as a distraction from China’s internal policies.

Until just a few weeks ago, China had a strict “zero-COVID” policy. Lockdowns were widespread and extremely restrictive. But in early December, following a series of angry protests and in response to a faltering economy, China abruptly dropped the strict rules.

“If [Xi] is looking to shore up domestic support we may see him try to undertake a … minor incursion of Taiwan,” Bruen told host David Cochrane. Bruen said one of the smaller islands between Taiwan and China could be a target.

An Air Force aircraft under the Eastern Theatre Command of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) takes part in military exercises in the waters around Taiwan, in this August 4, 2022 handout released on August 5, 2022. (Eastern Theatre Command/Reuters)

Canada’s UN Ambassador Bob Rae told CBC Radio’s The House that while it’s not clear whether China will invade Taiwan, Xi’s recent rhetoric is “deeply troubling.”

“We have to be prepared and ready for whatever comes. We shouldn’t be naive about it,” he told host Catherine Cullen.

During his stop in Ottawa last week, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that “he would like to collaborate with Canada to maintain and strengthen the peace and stability” of the Indo–Pacific region, according to a readout from the Japanese embassy.

During a press conference following his meeting with Trudeau, Kishida said Japan and Canada “strongly agree” that there should be no attempt to change the international “status quo” through violence, although he didn’t specifically mention Taiwan.

“That should never happen anywhere, including in Asia,” he said.

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