That is why Taiwan is so important

US top politician Nancy Pelosi is expected to visit Taiwan on Tuesday, despite strong warnings from China.

Pelosi is speaker of the House of Representatives in the United States, and will thus be the most senior American politician to visit the island since 1997.

According to Chinese state-controlled media, Chinese President Xi Jinping said this is “playing with fire” when he spoke to US President Joe Biden last week.

– This is an important journey for the Speaker to undertake and we will do everything we can to support her. We as a nation should not be intimidated by the rhetoric, said spokesman John Kirby of the White House’s National Security Council to CNN on Monday.

Strategically important

China’s interest in Taiwan is well known, but why is the “Big Island”, as “Taiwan” means, so interesting to the United States?

– It is perhaps more correct to think of it as the fact that it is important for the US to prevent China from gaining control of Taiwan. The US does not have such a great strategic interest in Taiwan itself, but in preventing the Chinese from controlling Taiwan, says Professor Øystein Tunsjø at the Norwegian Defense Academy.

The reason is Taiwan’s geographical location, outside China, with the Taiwan Strait between them.

– Linked to that are a number of military strategic assessments, explains Tunsjø.

During the Second World War, according to Tunsjø, the United States experienced how effective it was for China to operate militarily from Taiwan, which lies north of the Philippines and south of Japan.

According to Tunsjø, the US does not operate militarily from Taiwan.

– But they operate militarily from a number of islands in Japan and other bases in the region. It gives the US very good control over Chinese military operations. Every time China crosses the first group of islands, this is registered with sonars and other surveillance.

And China does not have this access either.

Professor Øystein Tunsjø at the Department of Defense Studies.  Photo: IFS/Forsvaret

Professor Øystein Tunsjø at the Department of Defense Studies. Photo: IFS/Forsvaret

– It closes China in militarily strategically. And it is difficult to invade Taiwan. If China gets Taiwan, they get a much greater range with their planes and can push through with their submarines. The moment China consolidates militarily over Taiwan, it will be very difficult for the US to follow them, notes Tunsjø.

This makes Taiwan a toss-up between China and the US. Quite a big deal: The country has 23 million inhabitants and, according to Store Norske Leksikon, is the world’s 16th largest nation in terms of gross domestic product.

– Stronger desire

China believes that Taiwan belongs to them, but the island has been separated from China since 1949. In a speech in May 2021 said Chinese President Xi Jinping that “realizing China’s complete reunification is a historic mission.”

– For China, it is about much more, about sovereignty, history and nationalism. China has a strong desire to recapture Taiwan, and that desire is probably greater than the US’s desire to defend Taiwan, Tunsjø believes.

ON ASIA: Nancy Pelosi met Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore on Monday.  Photo: Mohd Fyrol/ NTB via AP

ON ASIA: Nancy Pelosi met Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore on Monday. Photo: Mohd Fyrol/ NTB via AP

The statement caused a stir and the White House tried to withdraw the statement, but it could not be done.

– It is not the first time he has said that. It is clear that there is something there, but Biden has become so messed up that he can slur his words quite often, comments Tunsjø.

He believes that China will wait out the situation and show patience, unless the great power is pushed into a corner.

– The ideal for them is to conquer Taiwan without the use of military force.

He therefore believes that China will wait until the country’s military power has become so massive that the US either does not dare to intervene or is unable to intervene.

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