By Sarah Wu
TAIPEI, Nov 4 (Reuters) – A senior Taiwanese security official told the government on Thursday that China had internally debated the possibility of attacking the Pratas Islands of Taiwan, but will not do so before 2024, the year that China’s mandate ends. President Tsai Ing-wen.
The director general of the Office of National Security, Chen Ming-tong, did not say how he knew that the move had been discussed or why it would not come in the next few years.
The Chinese Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Taiwan, a self-governed island claimed by Beijing, has been complaining for more than a year about repeated military demonstrations by the Chinese air force, often in the southwestern part of its air defense zone, near the Pratas Islands, controlled by Taiwan but less defended.
Situated roughly between southern Taiwan and Hong Kong, some security experts consider the Pratas vulnerable to Chinese attacks due to its distance – more than 400 kilometers – from mainland Taiwan.
China has accused Taiwan, and its most important international defender, the United States, of the tensions that are taking place in the Taiwan Strait.
“Attacking and capturing the Prat Islands – a scenario in which war is used to force (Taiwan) into talks – we believe this will not happen during President Tsai’s term,” Chen told a parliamentary meeting.
Chen was responding to a question from a parliamentarian from Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang, on whether China would strike before 2024, when Tsai’s second term is due to end.
“Frankly, they’ve discussed it internally before,” Chen said, referring to China, but without detailing or mentioning when that discussion took place. “Obviously, we have some understanding,” he said.
Taiwan has repeatedly said that it wants to maintain the “status quo” with China, but vows to defend its freedom and democracy.
In Washington on Wednesday, General Mark Milley, the head of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that China is unlikely to try to take Taiwan militarily in the next two years, even if its military develops capabilities that allow it to capture the island. (Report by Sarah Wu and Yimou Lee with additional information from Yew Lun Tian in Beijing. Edited in Spanish by José Muñoz and Marion Giraldo)