Tensions in the Far East

China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe has once again reiterated China’s policy of reunification with Taiwan. Speaking at the recently concluded Shangrila Dialogue, Wei Fenghe said that if any country stood in the way of Taiwan’s reunification, the Chinese military would have no option but to fight for national unity. “Foreign intervention in the Taiwan question is doomed to failure”, he said. The comments come as Wei became the highest Chinese official to speak at the dialogue after a decade. With growing tensions in the South China Sea and Chinese concerns of US intervention in Taiwan, the latest policy declaration speaks to a continued confidence in Beijing as it meets the twin challenges of the US led trade dispute and its military re-alignment under the Indo-Pacific pivot.

Last month, the US navy in coordination with navies from India, Japan and the Philippines undertook a joint sail through of the contested South China Sea in a demonstration of the right to navigation. Later the same month, France and India undertook extensive naval exercises off the coast of Djibouti – where both France and China maintain naval bases. The exercises, seen as a direct challenge to China’s growing naval presence along trading routes from the South China Sea through the Indian Ocean have heightened tensions in the Indo-Pacific. For Pakistan, where Chinese investment in Gwadar is seen as strategic, the alignment of naval exercises provides proof of the emerging importance of the Indian Ocean. As Indian naval capabilities and foreign presence in the Indian Ocean grows, Pakistan will have to invest in maintaining a minimum credible conventional deterrence along its sea routes. Pakistan has long neglected its naval capabilities but is now slated to induct new surface and sub-surface combatants through billion dollar procurements from China.