Taiwan backs British move for military base in South China Sea
TAIWAN’S president has suggested she would welcome a British military base in the South China Sea as she called for international help to defend the island from renewed Chinese threats.
Tsai Ing-wen’s comments yesterday came after Xi Jinping, China’s president, warned that Beijing reserved the right to use force to bring Taiwan under its control, but would first strive to achieve peaceful “reunification”.
Ms Tsai said: “We hope the international community takes it seriously and can support and help us.” If it did not support a democratic country under threat, “we might have to ask which country might be next?” she added.
Taiwan, a self-ruled democracy of 23 million and a key US ally in the region, is claimed by China. It borders the disputed waters of the South China Sea, which carries a third of global shipping and is the focus of disputes between Brunei, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Beijing, which claims the sea in its entirety, has alarmed the international community with a build-up of military fortifications in its waters.
The UK is making post-Brexit plans to beef up its presence, with Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, revealing to The Sunday Telegraph last week that Britain would open a new military base in South East Asia. Asked if she would support a British presence, Ms Tsai signalled Taiwan would welcome “any actions that will be helpful towards maintaining peace in the South China Sea, as well as maintaining freedom of passage”.
Mr Williamson has taken a hard line against Beijing in the South China Sea, deploying British warships to send the “strongest of signals” to China on the importance of freedom of navigation.
Taiwan is not formally recognised by most nations, including the UK, but it is often considered by the West to be a democratic ally in a volatile region.