China ‘nullified’ tacit agreement on Taiwan Strait: Minister

China has destroyed a tacit agreement on military movements in the Taiwan Strait by crossing an unofficial “median line” over the waterway, Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said on Wednesday.

Chiu acknowledged the end of the tacit agreement on the median line, but told Taiwan’s parliament that Taiwan would respond if China crossed its “red line”.

He did not say what Taiwan’s “red line” was, but suggested it included Chinese aircraft, including drones, flying into Taiwan’s territory. He did not identify the center line as a “red line”.

China, which considers the democratically governed island its own territory, conducted large-scale exercises in August, including firing missiles over Taipei, to express its anger over a visit to Taiwan by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Chinese military activities near Taiwan have since continued, albeit at a much lower level, and Chinese military aircraft routinely cross the median line, which had acted as an unofficial barrier between the two sides for years.

“The median line had to be a tacit agreement for everyone,” Chiu said at a parliamentary committee meeting.

“That tacit agreement has been quashed.”

China never officially recognized the line a US general devised in 1954 at the height of Cold War animosity between communist China and US-backed Taiwan, though the People’s Liberation Army had largely respected it.

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The Taiwan Strait is about 180 km (110 miles) wide, and at its narrowest its centerline is about 40 km (25 miles) from Taiwan’s waters.

Some Taiwanese officials and security analysts have said it would be difficult for the island to defend the median line without increasing the risk of dangerous escalation.

Chiu said China’s crossing of the median line signaled a new way of working that Taiwan would oppose.

“They want to build a new normal, but we won’t change … We will stand firm if they come. We will not give in.”

For years, China tacitly acknowledged the unmarked median line, but in 2020 a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it “did not exist”. China says its armed forces have the right to operate around Taiwan as it is Chinese territory.

Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims, saying China has never ruled over Taiwan, but only the island’s 23 million people have the right to decide their future.

Speaking to reporters earlier on Wednesday, Chiu said extending compulsory military service beyond four months was a matter of “urgency”, but the ministry was still in talks with other government agencies to work out details.

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