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Taiwan Invasion Near? Report Says U.S. Worried China May Blockade Taiwan Strait Within 18 Months

China had disputed the U.S. claim that the Taiwan Strait was international waters.
Representation. Taiwan is boosting its defense spending as it confronts an increasingly bellicose China. Photo: AFP / Sam Yeh
Representation. Taiwan is boosting its defense spending as it confronts an increasingly bellicose China. Photo: AFP / Sam Yeh

As Washington tackles the conundrum over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's potential visit to Taiwan, a report has stated that some officials in the Biden administration are worried China might move against the self-ruled island in the next 18 months.

The Biden administration is anxious that Beijing may resort to a total or partial blockade of the Taiwan Strait, the New York Times reported Monday. 

China had recently disputed the U.S. claim that the Taiwan Strait was international waters, saying it "enjoys sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait." Hinting at U.S.' involvement in the island, Beijing said there was no such thing as international waters under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). 

"By claiming that the Taiwan Strait is international waters, some countries intend to create an excuse for its manipulation of the Taiwan issue," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said.

Under the UNCLOS, China enjoys a 12 nautical mile territorial sea off its coasts. Since Beijing considers Taiwan a part of it, it claims the 12 nautical miles from Taiwan's coast is its territorial sea. 

The Biden administration rejected the claims and reiterated its stance by sending warships through the Taiwan Strait multiple times. 

However, Pelosi's planned visit has sparked further tensions, and according to the New York Times report, the administration is working to try to dissuade the politician from going to Taiwan. China had warned of "serious consequences" if Pelosi moved ahead with her plan.

The timing of Pelosi's visit has also compounded the fears of a Chinese retaliation. Aug. 1 is considered a crucial time for the Chinese Communist Party as it is the founding anniversary of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Taiwanese media reports said backroom meetings were expected to take place at the time to discuss Xi Jinping's bid for a third term as party chairman.

However, U.S. officials are still unsure about whether or not China would enforce the Taiwan Strait claim.

Senator Chris Coons, D-Del., told New York Times that "there is a lot of attention being paid" to what lessons China might learn from Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"And one school of thought is that the lesson is 'go early and go strong' before there is time to strengthen Taiwan's defenses," Coons told the outlet. "And we may be heading to an earlier confrontation — more a squeeze than an invasion — than we thought."

The U.S. officials still do not have any specific piece of intelligence that hints China would move soon on Taiwan. But, military analysts are reportedly studying "what might be the optimal time for China to take bolder actions to undermine Taiwan and the United States."

Officials in Beijing are aware that the U.S. too is learning from Ukraine and practicing the "porcupine stratergy," where the focus is to arm Taipei enough to deter the Chinese military.

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