Professor Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, issued his warning after similar threats were broached in Chinese state-run newspaper the Global Times yesterday – with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Defence Secretary Mark Esper singled out. Tensions over Taiwan – which China regards as part of its territory, but which for all intents and purposes is fully autonomous – have increased significantly in recent months.
Beijing was furious at US President Donald Trump’s decision to send first health chief Alex Azar, then Keith Krach, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, for official visits.
The arrival of the latter, on Friday, prompted China to launch a series of military drills, with at least 18 aircraft crossing into Taiwanese airspace.
Prof Tsang told Express.co.uk: “This being something from the Global Times, a tabloid albeit a subsidiary of the Party’s own People’s Daily, it does not bind the hands of the Chinese Government, but it does represents one of the views being articulated within the Party establishment.
“The idea that the PLA may test and land a missile or two shooting it over the air space of Taiwan and landing it off the east coast of Taiwan is possible. The PLA has the missile and capability to do that reliably.”
Referring to a specific claim in the Global Times editorial, Pro Tsang added: “Getting one to overfly the presidential office and land on the east side of Taiwan is a technically much more challenging mission about which I am not sure the PLA would want to try.
“Equally, it is easy for the Global Times to say the PLA will fly over Taiwan island, but I think the PLA High Command will be a lot more cautious doing so, as the risk to the aircrew would be very high.
The article added: “”Every time a high-ranking US official visits Taiwan, the fighter jets of the PLA should be one step closer to the island.”
“If the US secretary of state or secretary of defense comes to Taiwan, the PLA should fly its aircraft over the island and conduct exercises above it.
“If Taiwan authorities continue to act aggressively, such scenarios will definitely come true.”
Mr Pompeo himself has been outspoken on the subject of Taiwan since he replaced Rex Tillerson in the role in April 2018.
He appeared alongside Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen at a conference in June, much to the irritation of Beijing.
Mr Pompeo also bullishly defended the decision to send United States Health and Human Services Secretary Mr Azar there in August.
He said: “Cabinet members have travelled to Taiwan previously.
“He’s going there with a deep and important purpose. We’re still in a global pandemic.
“Taiwan has had some significant success in how they have handled this.
“We have wanted them to be part of the conversations at the World Health Assembly. China has prevented that from happening.
“And so he’ll go there and talk to them about public health issues as they relate to how we all move forward with respect to how we handle Covid and the opportunity for therapeutics and a vaccine.
“We welcome the expertise that Taiwan brings to that.”