Wednesday, April 7th, 2021
Vaccine as leverage
Taiwan accuses China of vaccine extortion
China is increasing pressure on Taiwan on several fronts. The island state accuses the People’s Republic of using its vaccine doses as a diplomatic tool. At the same time, Taipei also reports further military activities in its airspace.
Taiwan has accused the Chinese government of pressuring its allies with aggressive “vaccine diplomacy”. Beijing is wooing Paraguay with urgently needed vaccine supplies in order to get the South American country to give up diplomatic recognition of Taiwan, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said.
Paraguay is one of only 15 countries that officially recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state. “China’s vaccine diplomacy flexes its muscles in many parts of the world, particularly in Central and South America,” said Wu. China is an important source of corona vaccines for many poorer countries, as the vaccine doses manufactured in the West are mainly bought up by wealthy countries. However, the government in Beijing denies using its vaccines as diplomatic leverage.
In addition, the military pressure on Taiwan has recently increased. The government in Taipei announced the entry of Chinese fighter planes into its air surveillance zone on Wednesday. A total of 15 aircraft broke into the area, including twelve jets, said the Ministry of Defense.
Taiwan: “Will Defend Until the Last Day”
A government representative had previously informed parliament that Chinese drones had recently been sighted not far from the Pratas Islands in the South China Sea, which are controlled by Taiwan and claimed by China. They did not penetrate the airspace designated by Taiwan.
However, should that happen, Taiwan could open fire if necessary, according to the head of the Council for Maritime Affairs, Lee Chung-wei. At the beginning of the week, the People’s Republic announced that an aircraft carrier group was holding routine exercises off Taiwan. It is not known exactly where the warships are currently located. The United States, which provides military support to Taiwan’s government, among other things, has sent an aircraft carrier formation to the South China Sea.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said his country was ready to go to war if it had to. “And if we have to defend ourselves until the last day, we will defend ourselves until the last day.” Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense, in turn, announced an eight-day computerized maneuver that will simulate an attack by China later this month.
Beijing regards Taiwan, which broke away from China in 1949, as a breakaway province to be reunited with the mainland – if necessary by force. Since the election of independence advocate Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwanese president in 2016, Beijing has increased diplomatic, economic and military pressure even further. Since then, Beijing has recruited seven of Taiwan’s official allies. Panama, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, among others, broke away from Taipei and instead established relations with China.