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Taiwan Faces Intense Pressure as China Increases Squeeze Ahead of Presidential Inauguration 

The tension escalated since Vice President Lai Ching-te assumed the presidency in January, a move China views as separatist.

In the lead-up to Taiwan’s upcoming presidential inauguration in May, the island is experiencing a continuous “drip” of pressure from China, prompting concerns among officials in Taipei about Beijing’s intentions and the potential limitations it may impose without resorting to direct conflict.

The tension escalated since Vice President Lai Ching-te assumed the presidency in January, a move China views as separatist. 

Beijing’s response has been swift, including the severance of a diplomatic ally, alteration of an air route in the Taiwan Strait, and the initiation of regular coast guard patrols around the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen islands, situated near the Chinese coast.

Despite Taiwan’s firm rejection of China’s territorial claims, Beijing considers the island its own territory, further complicating the delicate cross-strait relationship. U.S Representative Mike Gallagher, visiting Taipei last week, characterized China’s actions as part of a strategic effort to incrementally increase pressure on Taiwan, akin to a “salami-slicing” technique.

“It is a salami-slicing effort; they are slowly turning up the rheostat,” Gallagher explained, emphasizing the gradual nature of China’s maneuvers.

A foreign official closely monitoring security matters in the region described the situation as a persistent “drip” of pressure, indicating Beijing’s disapproval of President Lai without resorting to overt military confrontation. This nuanced approach aims to test the waters and gradually alter the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

China justifies its coast guard patrols as measures to ensure the safety of its fishermen, emphasizing the recent fatalities of two Chinese fishermen who attempted to evade Taiwan’s coast guard near Kinmen. While China insists on its right to conduct these patrols, critics argue that it contributes to restricting Taiwan’s maneuverability.

Li Zhenguang, a Taiwan expert at Beijing Union University, asserted China’s need to “firmly grasp the initiative” in dealing with Taiwan. He highlighted the assertion of jurisdiction around Kinmen as a strategic step towards the ultimate goal of “reunification,” according to China’s official Xinhua news agency.

The evolving situation raises concerns about the delicate balance in the Taiwan Strait and the potential implications for regional stability as the island approaches a significant political transition.

Chioma Kalu

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