United States sounds alarm about China’s military and economic inroads in Indo-Pacific

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It notes that ongoing tension over the status of Taiwan is a key factor in China's huge investment in its military forces in recent years.

Taiwan will not bow to Chinese pressure and called for worldwide support against Beijing's "out-of-control actions", a presidential spokesman said on Thursday, after Beijing urged companies to change the way they refer to the self-ruled island.

Taiwan's independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen has made national defense a priority while refusing China's demand that she recognise Taiwan as a part of China.

The drills follow intelligence from the USA over China's growing military might, with concern growing that Taiwan may become a target.

That has led to Beijing ratcheting up economic, military and diplomatic pressure on the island of 23 million.

DIA Director Robert Ashley said: "Beijing's longstanding interest to eventually compel Taiwan's reunification with the mainland and deter any attempt by Taiwan to declare independence has served as the primary driver for China's military modernisation". "The PLAN has expanded the scope and frequency of extended-range naval deployments, military exercises, and engagements", it said.

"If anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will safeguard the national unity at all costs so as to protect China's sovereignty and territorial integrity", Gen. Li Zuocheng, the PLA's chief of the Joint Staff Department, told Richardson during a meeting in Beijing, according to the newspaper.

Taiwan is a self-ruled and democratic territory to the west of mainland China.

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"It is a historical conclusion drawn over 70 years of development of cross-strait relations and a must for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation in the new era", he said. "And so the danger comes from them being present in more places at more times, and you always have to worry about potential for miscalculation, although I think we've seen, over the past several years, there have been close interactions between USA naval forces and the Chinese forces".

Taiwan's OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter (left) fires during a military exercises in Taichung.

Taiwan is only one of a growing number of flashpoints in the US-China relationship, including a trade war between the countries, US sanctions on the Chinese military, and China's increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea.

President Donald Trump imposed tariff increases of up to 25 percent on US$250 billion of Chinese imports over complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology.

The report states that data submitted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows that "more than $13 billion in duties imposed by the Trump administration were assessed on imported goods as of December 18", but that actual receipt could "lag and be lower" due to refunds and other factors.

Last October, tens of thousands of Taiwan independence campaigners took to the streets in the first large-scale protest calling for an outright independence vote since the island first became a democracy more than 20 years ago.

Beijing believes Taiwan should be part of a unified China.

Beijing has adopted a multi-pronged approach to diminish Taiwan's presence on the worldwide stage in recent years, including blocking it from global forums and poaching its dwindling number of official diplomatic allies.