Tony Abbott arrives in Taiwan for regional forum amid rising China tensions

Mr Abbott is visiting Taiwan in a private capacity and is also expected to meet with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen this week.

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott.

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott. Source: AAP

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has arrived in Taiwan to address an international forum as concerns mount over recent Chinese military aggression in the region.

Mr Abbott was greeted by Deputy Foreign Minister Tien Chung-kwang on Tuesday afternoon after arriving at the self-governed island's capital of Taipei. 

He is visiting Taiwan in a private capacity where the former Liberal leader is scheduled to deliver a keynote address at the Yushan Forum on Friday. 

Mr Abbott is also expected to meet with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen this week.

His visit comes after a record number of Chinese air force planes have flown into Taiwan’s self-declared Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over recent days. 

Taiwan reported 148 Chinese air force planes in the southern and southwestern part of its ADIZ over a four-day period beginning on 1 October, the same day China marked a key patriotic holiday, National Day.

The air incursions have prompted concern from Australia, the United States and Japan, who have warned against provocative moves being made by Beijing.  

The Yushan Forum is an Asian regional dialogue conference organised by the Taiwan-Asia Exchange discussing concerns facing Taiwan and its neighbouring partner countries.

Another former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull was also a keynote speaker at last year's forum, where he praised Taiwan's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its "democratic values and sovereignty".

Mr Abbott last week spoke in support of Taiwan joining the regional trade block known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Both Taiwan and China have made applications to join the 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which includes Australia. 

Mr Abbott recently told a parliamentary inquiry in Australia that concerns over inflaming tensions with Beijing should not persuade a decision around Taiwan’s inclusion in the pact.

"Given that China is not a member of the TPP, is unlikely to become a member of the TPP, and is already in a state of high dudgeon against Australia and many other countries, I don't see that China is going to be any more upset than it already is," he said last week. 

China claims Taiwan as its own territory, which should be taken by force if necessary. It is also opposed to Taiwan's inclusion in any multilateral bodies.

Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy, blaming China for the tensions.

"Taiwan must be on alert. China is more and more over the top," Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters in Taipei on Tuesday.

"The world has also seen China's repeated violations of regional peace and pressure on Taiwan." 

The cross-strait dynamic in the region is being viewed with increasing concern by the international community.

Earlier in the week, Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said relations with Australia were strong.

"We would like to engage in security or intelligence exchanges with other like-minded partners, Australia included, so Taiwan is better prepared to deal with the war situation," he told the ABC.

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Monday also said Australia was “concerned by China’s increased air incursions into Taiwan’s air defence zone over the past week”.  

The Chinese aircraft have not been flying in Taiwan's air space, but its air defence identification zone or ADIZ, a broader area Taiwan monitors and patrols.

Beijing has blamed the United States for the tensions due to its arms sales and support for the island. 

US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he had spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping about Taiwan and they agreed to abide by the Taiwan agreement. 

"I've spoken with Xi about Taiwan. We agree ... we'll abide by the Taiwan agreement," he said.

"We made it clear that I don't think he should be doing anything other than abiding by the agreement." 

Mr Biden appeared to be referring to Washington's long-standing "one-China policy" under which it officially recognises Beijing rather than Taipei.

The Taiwan Relations Act makes clear that the US decision to establish diplomatic ties with Beijing instead of Taiwan rests upon the expectation that its future will be determined by peaceful means.

Australia holds a similar position that does not formally recognise Taiwan diplomatically.

With Reuters

Published 6 October 2021 at 12:01pm, updated 6 October 2021 at 12:29pm
By Tom Stayner
Source: SBS News